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verb (used with or without object), es·ca·lat·ed, es·ca·lat·ing.
  1. to increase in intensity, magnitude, etc.: to escalate a war; a time when prices escalate.
  2. to raise, lower, rise, or descend on or as if on an escalator.
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Origin of escalate

First recorded in 1920–25; back formation from escalator
Related formses·ca·la·tion, nounes·ca·la·to·ry [es-kuh-luh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈɛs kə ləˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, adjectivenon·es·ca·lat·ing, adjectivenon·es·ca·la·to·ry, adjectivere·es·ca·late, verb, re·es·ca·lat·ed, re·es·ca·lat·ing.re·es·ca·la·tion, noun


See more synonyms for escalate on Thesaurus.com
1. advance, mount, swell.


1. lower, decrease, fall.

Pronunciation note

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for escalate

Contemporary Examples

British Dictionary definitions for escalate


  1. to increase or be increased in extent, intensity, or magnitudeto escalate a war; prices escalated because of inflation
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Derived Formsescalation, noun

Word Origin

C20: back formation from escalator
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for escalate


1922, back-formation from escalator, replacing earlier verb escalade (1801), from the noun escalade. Escalate came into general use with a figurative sense of "raise" after 1959 in reference to the possibility of nuclear war. Related: Escalated; escalating.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper