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[es-kuh-leyt] /ˈɛs kəˌleɪt/
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.
Origin of escalate
1920-25; back formation from escalator
Related forms
escalation, noun
[es-kuh-luh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈɛs kə ləˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/ (Show IPA),
nonescalating, adjective
nonescalatory, adjective
reescalate, verb, reescalated, reescalating.
reescalation, noun
1. advance, mount, swell.
1. lower, decrease, fall.
Pronunciation note
See percolate. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for escalation
  • 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.
  • Workers can opt out if they don't want auto-escalation.
  • But the risk of escalation into conflict has seemed limited.
  • The seizure of e-mails marks more than the escalation of a probe in which until now the gumshoes have trodden lightly.
  • They are often unable to counter excessive price escalation when they want to, as at present.
  • The market must fear this will cause a sharp escalation in the currency wars.
  • The clashes are an escalation of skirmishes that began earlier this year.
British Dictionary definitions for escalation


to increase or be increased in extent, intensity, or magnitude: to escalate a war, prices escalated because of inflation
Derived Forms
escalation, noun
Word Origin
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
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Word Origin and History for escalation

derived noun from escalate; in the figurative sense it is from 1938, in reference to the battleship arms race among global military powers.



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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escalation in Culture

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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