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From Latin aggravatus, past participle of aggravare (to add to the weight of, make worse, oppress, annoy), from ad (to) + gravare (to make heavy), from gravis (heavy). See grave and compare aggrieve and aggredge.


  • IPA(key): /ˈæɡ.ɹə.veɪ̯t/


aggravate (third-person singular simple present aggravates, present participle aggravating, simple past and past participle aggravated)

  1. To make worse, or more severe; to render less tolerable or less excusable; to make more offensive; to enhance; to intensify.
    • c. 1595, William Shakespeare, “The life and death of King Richard the Second”, in Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies: Published According to the True Originall Copies (First Folio), London: Printed by Isaac Iaggard, and Ed[ward] Blount, published 1623, OCLC 606515358, [Act I, scene i], page 23, column 2:
      Once more, the more to aggrauate the note,
      With a foule Traitors name ſtuffe I thy throte,
      And wiſh (ſo pleaſe my Soueraigne) ere I moue,
      What my tong ſpeaks, my right drawn ſword may proue
    • (Can we date this quote by Alexander Pope?)
      [] to aggravate my woes.
    • (Can we date this quote by William H. Prescott?)
      [] to aggravate the horrors of the scene
    • (Can we date this quote by Addison?)
      The defense made by the prisoner's counsel did rather aggravate than extenuate his crime.
  2. To give coloring to in description; to exaggerate.
    He aggravated the story.
  3. To exasperate; to provoke; to irritate.
    • 1748, Samuel Richardson, Clarissa:
      If both were to aggravate her parents, as my brother and sister do mine.
    • 1905, Baroness Emmuska Orczy, chapter 1, in The Ayrsham Mystery[1]:
      “It is a pity,” he retorted with aggravating meekness, “that they do not use a little common sense. The case resembles that of Columbus' egg, and is every bit as simple. […]”
    • 1977, Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace, New York Review Books 2006, p. 85:
      Ben Bella was aggravated by having to express himself in French because the Egyptians were unable to understand his Arabic.

Usage notes[edit]

Although the meaning "to exasperate, to annoy" has been in continuous usage since the 16th century, a large number of usage mavens have contested it since the 1870s. Opinions have swayed from this proscription since 1965, but it still garners disapproval in Garner's Modern American Usage (2009), at least for formal writing.



Related terms[edit]


Further reading[edit]




  1. second-person plural present indicative of aggravare
  2. second-person plural imperative of aggravare
  3. feminine plural of aggravato




  1. first-person plural present active imperative of aggravō