verb (used with object), ir·ri·tat·ed, ir·ri·tat·ing.

to excite to impatience or anger; annoy.
Physiology, Biology. to excite (a living system) to some characteristic action or function.
Pathology. to bring (a body part) to an abnormally excited or sensitive condition.

verb (used without object), ir·ri·tat·ed, ir·ri·tat·ing.

to cause irritation or become irritated.

Origin of irritate

1525–35; < Latin irrītātus, past participle of irrītāre to arouse to anger, excite, aggravate, equivalent to irritā- v. stem + -tus past participle suffix
Related formsir·ri·ta·tor, noun
Can be confusedaggravate annoy irritate

Synonyms for irritate

Synonym study

1. Irritate, exasperate, provoke mean to annoy or stir to anger. To irritate is to excite to impatience or angry feeling, often of no great depth or duration: to irritate by refusing to explain an action. To exasperate is to irritate to a point where self-control is threatened or lost: to exasperate by continual delays and excuses. To provoke is to stir to a sudden, strong feeling of resentful anger as by unwarrantable acts or wanton annoyance: to tease and provoke an animal until it attacks. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for irritate

Contemporary Examples of irritate

Historical Examples of irritate

  • The sick man was flushed and growing fretful; it would not do to irritate him.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • Such were the habits calculated to irritate the conventionalities of Tiverton against her.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • Yet you stand there and irritate me with your chatter of another world.

  • He did not speak and his silence seemed to irritate his partner.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • Do you say this to irritate and offend me, or do you prevaricate out of shame?

    A Day's Ride

    Charles James Lever

British Dictionary definitions for irritate



to annoy or anger (someone)
(tr) biology to stimulate (an organism or part) to respond in a characteristic manner
(tr) pathol to cause (a bodily organ or part) to become excessively stimulated, resulting in inflammation, tenderness, etc
Derived Formsirritator, noun

Word Origin for irritate

C16: from Latin irrītāre to provoke, exasperate
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 irritate

1530s, "stimulate to action, rouse, incite," from Latin irritatus, past participle of irritare "excite, provoke." An earlier verb form was irrite (mid-15c.), from Old French irriter. Meaning "annoy, make impatient" is from 1590s. Related: Irritated; irritating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper