verb (used with object), verb (used without object), escalated, escalating.
to increase in intensity, magnitude, etc.: to escalate a war; a time when prices escalate.
to raise, lower, rise, or descend on or as if on an escalator.

1920–25; back formation from escalator

escalation, noun
escalatory [es-kuh-luh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] , adjective
nonescalating, adjective
nonescalatory, adjective
reescalate, verb, reescalated, reescalating.
reescalation, noun

1. advance, mount, swell.

1. lower, decrease, fall.

See percolate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
escalate (ˈɛskəˌleɪt)
to increase or be increased in extent, intensity, or magnitude: to escalate a war; prices escalated because of inflation
[C20: back formation from escalator]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

1922, back formation from escalator; it came into general use with a sense of "raise" after 1959. Related: Escalated; escalating.

derived noun from escalate; in the figurative sense it is from 1938, in reference to the battleship arms race among global military powers.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Cultural Dictionary

escalation definition

An increase in the intensity or geographical scope of a war or diplomatic confrontation. For example, during the Korean War, some Americans urged escalation of the war through bombing of the People's Republic of China.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Example sentences
Others counter that tracking mild symptoms is important for preventing their
  escalation into more severe illness.
While this doesn't guarantee a future with no disturbances, it surely would
  stop many from escalation.
There's a real risk of out-of-control escalation in the pirate war.
But they were facing a master strategist who understood the power of escalation.
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