Origin: 1425–75; late Middle English Related forms
< Latin aggravātus
(past participle of aggravāre
), equivalent to ag- ag-
) + -ātus -ate1
; cf. aggrieve
o·ver·ag·gra·vate, verb (used with object), o·ver·ag·gra·vat·ed, o·ver·ag·gra·vat·ing.
pre·ag·gra·vate, verb (used with object), pre·ag·gra·vat·ed, pre·ag·gra·vat·ing.
re·ag·gra·vate, verb (used with object), re·ag·gra·vat·ed, re·ag·gra·vat·ing.
1. heighten, increase. Aggravate, intensify both mean to increase in degree. To aggravate is to make more serious or more grave: to aggravate a danger, an offense, a wound. To intensify is perceptibly to increase intensity, force, energy, vividness, etc.: to intensify heat, color, rage. 2. anger, vex, rile.
The two most common senses of aggravate are “to make worse” and “to annoy or exasperate.” Both senses first appeared in the early 17th century at almost the same time; the corresponding two senses of the noun aggravation also appeared then. Both senses of aggravate and aggravation have been standard since then. The use of aggravate to mean “annoy” is sometimes objected to because it departs from the etymological meaning “to make heavier,” and in formal speech and writing the sense “annoy” is somewhat less frequent than “to make worse.” The noun aggravation meaning “annoyance” occurs in all types of speech and writing.