Aggravate – Usage, Meaning & Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

As a parent of two kids, I’m highly aware of the meaning behind the word aggravate. It’s a fairly common verb we use to describe the feeling of being overly bothered by something. But I wanted to take a second to explain the full definition of the word and show you how to properly use it in the context of a sentence.

What Does Aggravate Mean?

Aggravate Usage Meaning Examples

“Aggravate” is usually a verb but can also be an adjective. In verb form, it means to make a situation or problem even worse than it already is, like poking a hornet’s nest. Did you need to do it? No. And by poking it, you’re aggravating it, aka making it worse.

But you can also use it to describe the simple act of annoying or irritating someone, often persistently. If you’re a parent like me, you’ll relate more to the side of the meaning.

Aggravate vs. Aggravating

So, we know that “aggravate” is a verb that describes the action of making something worse or more irritating. But “aggravating” is an adjective that describes a situation or behavior that’s annoying or exacerbates an existing problem.

In other words, “aggravate” is the action, and “aggravating” is the quality or result of that action.

However, the adjective form “aggravating” can double as the present tense verb form.

  • Verb: Don’t aggravate me while I’m working.
  • Adjective: The sound of nails on a chalkboard is very aggravating.
  • Present tense verb: You are aggravating me.

Etymology of Aggravate

The word “aggravate” derives from the Latin verb “aggravare,” which means “to make heavier” or “to burden.”

“Aggravare” is a combination of the prefix “ad-” (meaning “to” or “toward”) and “gravare” (meaning “to weigh down”), which in turn comes from “gravis” (aka “heavy”).

Then “aggravate” was taken into the English language in the late 1500s, where it changed from a literal sense to a figurative one.

How to Pronounce Aggravate

You should pronounce the word as a-gruh-vayt with the primary stress on the first syllable.

Aggravate Synonyms

  • Exacerbate
  • Worsen
  • Drive insane
  • Intensify
  • Compound
  • Increase
  • Heighten
  • Make batty
  • Annoy
  • Irritate
  • Provoke

Aggravate Examples in a Sentence

Aggravate Usage Meaning Examples 1

Here are a few complete sentences that should help you visualize how to properly use the word in both a verb and an adjective sense.

  • Her kid’s constant complaining only served to aggravate the situation in the restaurant.
  • The loud music from the party next door aggravated my headache well into the night.
  • Mike’s lack of attention to detail aggravated the project’s delays and setbacks even more.
  • Running on just two hours of broken sleep and being home with two kids under five feel very aggravating today.
  • Skipping entire meals can aggravate symptoms of fatigue and low blood sugar, especially in those with diabetes.
  • The sound of kids crying on a plane is very aggravating.

What Aggravates You?

There you go! That should explain everything you need to know about using the word aggravate. Whether in verb or adjective form, the meaning is centered around being annoying or disturbing in some way.