1. vex, chafe, fret, gall; nettle, ruffle, pique; incense, enrage, infuriate, inflame. 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.