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/
  • (file)


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

  1. To make (an offence) worse or more severe; to increase in offensiveness or heinousness. [from 16th c.]
    • 1595 December 9 (first known performance)​, 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
    • 1709 Joseph Addison, The Tatler
      The defense made by the prisoner's counsel did rather aggravate than extenuate his crime.
  2. (by extension) To make worse; to exacerbate. [from 16th c.]
  3. (now rare) To give extra weight or intensity to; to exaggerate, to magnify. [from 16th c.]
    He aggravated the story.
  4. (obsolete) To pile or heap (something heavy or onerous) on or upon someone. [16th–18th c.]
    • 1790, Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, Oxford 2009, p. 28:
      In order to lighten the crown still further, they aggravated responsibility on ministers of state.
  5. (now chiefly colloquial) To exasperate; to provoke or irritate. [from 16th c.]
    • 1748, Samuel Richardson, Clarissa:
      If both were to aggravate her parents, as my brother and sister do mine.
    • 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 notesEdit

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 termsEdit


Further readingEdit




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




  1. second-person plural present active imperative of aggravō