Definition of aggravate in English:



  • 1Make (a problem, injury, or offence) worse or more serious.

    ‘military action would only aggravate the situation’
    • ‘To put energy into pH regulation to reverse acidosis would not help in this situation, but on the contrary would aggravate the energy problem.’
    • ‘The housing problem was aggravated by a rapid increase in a population that doubled from 1949 to 1964 and almost doubled again by the end of the century.’
    • ‘That seriously aggravates his third problem - namely, that as the candidate appealing to both wings of the Democrats, he necessarily also annoys both wings.’
    • ‘Advanced disease and intensive multi-modality treatment aggravates problems like speech disturbances, eating problems, and disfigurement.’
    • ‘Hibs were further encouraged when Moravcik aggravated the leg injury which had troubled him all week and went off to be replaced by McNamara in only 17 minutes.’
    • ‘In many obstinate skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema where the application of soap aggravates the problem, patients are best advised to use curd while bathing.’
    • ‘The local favourite aggravated an injury to his troublesome right arm after catching his hand in a latch while taking a toilet break on the 16th fairway.’
    • ‘Shielded lamps and indirect luminaires prevent the lighting installation from aggravating the problems of stress.’
    • ‘Despite calls for their culling and suggestions they be given to pensioners for Sunday dinner, many people insisted on feeding them which only aggravated the problem.’
    • ‘On the contrary it could very well aggravate the problem even further.’
    • ‘The judge noted he was a risk to the public and said the offence was aggravated by force used and injuries being caused to a vulnerable victim.’
    • ‘Ji said that the sudden crisis will aggravate people's mental problems if they are prone to depression, obsession and anxiety.’
    • ‘It was Wilkinson's third run-out after a long battle with a groin problem and there were fears he had aggravated the injury when he was attended to by medics after 58 minutes.’
    • ‘However, the problem is aggravated by another large group of litter-creators: the people who throw their rubbish out of car windows.’
    • ‘Contrary to expectations, moving leopards around has only aggravated the problem.’
    • ‘Though she discovered a passion for running in the mountains, the stress aggravated a previous injury, and Ratkovic ruptured her Achilles tendon.’
    • ‘‘Your dangerous and aggressive driving was intentional, this seriously aggravates the offence,’ Judge Haworth said.’
    • ‘The negative publicity surrounding OxyContin has aggravated a longstanding problem.’
    • ‘Premature implementation will set back the cause of regional reform and development and aggravate political problems.’
    • ‘Even a slight traffic accident or a train delay aggravates the problems and stress.’
    worsen, make worse, exacerbate, inflame, compound
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  • 2informal Annoy or exasperate.

    ‘she found him thoroughly aggravating and unprofessional’
    • ‘I began to stalk away from him, thoroughly aggravated.’
    • ‘Yes, this week's retro Mercury can be aggravating and infuriating, so fume and brood if you want to.’
    • ‘In any event, I hoped you enjoyed reading this, even if it was written when I was annoyed and aggravated with the people I worked with back in '98.’
    • ‘And when you separate the illness from the patient, you free the parents up to be aggravated and very clear about what they're fighting.’
    • ‘FBI warnings are irritating enough, but this is especially aggravating, for two reasons.’
    • ‘Words I would never have dared to say to my father before, whenever he annoyed or aggravated me.’
    • ‘The minutes slowly tick by; the woman is getting aggravated.’
    • ‘She muttered, taking control of her anger, ‘Just aggravated at the rat that was watching me.’’
    • ‘After explaining myself to the very aggravated and annoyed teacher who had exclaimed upon my arrival that I had cut class everything seemed to calm down.’
    • ‘I used to work at a grocery store, and would go home each night thoroughly annoyed and aggravated.’
    • ‘We're looking for stories where your MIL drives you a little crazy, aggravates / annoys you a bit (nothing mean).’
    • ‘An hour we sat, miffed and aggravated until we finally escaped and arrived at our destination.’
    • ‘Not how will you aggravate him, challenge him, dare him, antagonize him, and make an enemy out of him.’
    • ‘When I walked in the door, Nick Partly, my HP, was waiting, looking thoroughly aggravated.’
    • ‘‘She's sick,’ Dani said, seemingly aggravated and overly annoyed.’
    • ‘The woman was STILL following me, and it was beginning to irritate and aggravate me.’
    • ‘People would find me here, weeks later, pale and thin, but worry free and careless, aggravated to be pulled from my hiding place.’
    • ‘Irritably, she swatted the aggravating hand that was distracting her.’
    • ‘What gets under our skin, aggravates, infuriates, frustrates and makes us hate is of the same seed that also begets love and divine revelation.’
    • ‘With the wind at her back Joy found the walk aggravating due to the fact that her waist long hair threw itself in front of her vision in tangled masses.’


Aggravate in the sense ‘annoy or exasperate’ dates back to the 17th century and has been so used by respected writers ever since. This use is still regarded as incorrect by some traditionalists on the grounds that it is too radical a departure from the etymological meaning of ‘make heavy’. It is, however, comparable to meaning changes in hundreds of other words which have long been accepted without comment


Mid 16th century: from Latin aggravat- made heavy, from the verb aggravare, from ad- (expressing increase) + gravis heavy.