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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

Synonyms for escalate

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Antonyms for escalate

Pronunciation note

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

Related Words for escalate

widen, raise, intensify, mount, rise, heighten, grow, expand, scale, extend, magnify, broaden, ascend, enlarge, climb, amplify

Examples from the Web for escalate

Contemporary Examples of escalate

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 for escalate

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