Exacerbate vs Exasperate: What’s the Difference?

Exacerbate vs exasperate can trip up many English writers, but these two related words actually have different meanings and uses.

When learning how to write English properly, synonyms and homonyms can be often confused words. Words that sound alike or mean similar things can throw off writers, and exacerbate vs exasperate are a pair of words that can be challenging to understand.

The best way to keep follow these spellings rules is to learn their meanings and then find examples of them in use. Here is a closer look at the difference between these two.

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Exacerbate vs Exasperate – Meanings and Example Sentence

Exacerbate vs exasperate

Because they have such a similar sound, exacerbate and exasperate are often used interchangeably, but these two words have different meanings in the English language. Looking at these meanings and examples of them both in use will help you keep them straight.

The Meaning And Etymology Of Exacerbate

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, exacerbate is a verb that means “to make more violent, bitter or severe.” This word comes from the Latin word acer, which means “sharp,” and it is used when referring to causing a bad situation to worsen.

Exacerbate Examples

Here are some examples of exacerbate used in a sentence:

  • The new road construction is exacerbating the already problematic traffic along that busy highway.
  • Her bad attitude will exacerbate the already tense feelings in the room.
  • The pandemic exacerbated already rising unemployment problems in certain demographics of people. 

Exacerbation Meaning

Exacerbate Vs Exasperate
Exacerbation describes making a bad situation, problem, or negative feeling even worse

Exacerbation is another word that comes from the same root, but it is a different part of speech. This is a noun that describes making a bad situation, problem, or negative feeling even worse. 

Here are some examples:

  • The high cost of fuel proved to be an exacerbation to the already tight travel budget.
  • An exacerbation of the problem might make it impossible to complete the assignment.
  • The exacerbation of having the floodlights fail made the play’s director want to throw in the towel.

The Meaning And Etymology Of Exasperate

The Merriam-Webster English dictionary defines exasperate as a verb that means “to irritate or cause annoyance” or “to excite the anger of.” It is most commonly used in the modern English language as a synonym for the word annoy. Other synonyms include to embitter, enrage or vex. 

This word can also be an adjective. when used as an adjective, exasperate means “irritated or annoyed.” it comes from the Latin verb exasperare, which in turn comes from the root asper, which means “rough.” You might also find our canon vs. cannon explainer useful.

Exasperate Examples 

Exasperate is another word for annoyed. Here are some examples of exasperate used in a sentence:

  • The new, limited hours of the local restaurant exasperated many of its regular patrons. (verb)
  • The toddler’s antics were cute at first, but then they started to exasperate his mother while she tried to get some work done. (infinitive verb)
  • “Why won’t he call back?” she asked in an exasperated voice while waiting for results from her doctor. (adjective)

Exasperation Meaning

Like exacerbate, exasperate has a noun form. The word exasperation means the feeling of being annoyed, especially when the person has no control over the situation. If you’re looking for an exacerbated definition, it basically means to have made a problem worse.

Here are some examples:

  • After years of trying to make it into a managerial position, without success, he quit his job out of exasperation. 
  • Her exasperation at her students’ confusion caused the teacher to re-evaluate her curriculum.
  • Saul shook his head in exasperation after repeating the instructions a third time.

A Final Word On Exacerbate Vs Exasperate

Exacerbate and exasperate are related words that are similar in both sound and spelling, but they have slightly different meanings. Mastering the English language means mastering tricky words like these.

If you are talking about aggravating or annoying someone, you will use the word exasperate for verb uses or exasperation for noun uses. If you are talking about making a bad situation worse, you will use exacerbate for verb uses or exacerbation for noun uses. Taking the time to get these right will make you a stronger writer.

If you liked this article, check out our common verbs list.

FAQs on Exacerbate vs Exasperate

Do exacerbate and exasperate mean the same thing?

No, these two related words have slightly different meanings. Exacerbate means to make something more violent, bitter or severe. Exasperate means to irritate someone or cause them to get annoyed. While exasperating someone can certainly exacerbate a negative situation, the words are slightly different.

What are some examples of exacerbate and exasperate in a sentence?

Here are two examples of each word used in a sentence:
1. Don’t exacerbate the situation by continuing to fight with your brother.
2. When you fail to pay your bills on time, you exacerbate your money trouble by getting new fees.
3. There is no reason to exasperate your friend by continuing to pester them on their decision.
4. Young children can often exasperate their parents by asking the same question repeatedly.