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Aggravate vs. Irritate (Correct Usage, + Examples)

Aggravate vs. irritate



How to use aggravate vs. irritate

Aggravate (a verb) comes from the Latin aggravatus, which means to “to render more troublesome,” …to make heavy or heavier, add to the weight of”. So, to aggravate is to add to an already difficult or frustrating situation; it’s like adding salt to the wound (so to speak).


To irritate, also a verb from the Latin irritatus, meaning “excite, provoke, annoy”. Simply put, to irritate is to annoy or provoke someone or something. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines it as, “to annoy somebody, especially by something you continuously do or by something that continuously happens “.

Also, from Strunk & White on aggravate:


This word is not a synonym for annoy or irritate. To aggravate is to make something worse: He started running too soon and aggravated his sprained ankle.



“Aggravate” / “irritate”, used in sentences

Examples: “aggravate”, used in sentences
He aggravated an old shoulder injury during the win against Chelsea.

The government’s actions will only aggravate the problem.

Their negative reactions have greatly aggravated the situation.
Examples: “irritate”, used in sentences
That man really irritates me!

She was moody at times and easily irritated.

The noise was beginning to irritate me intensely.

She was irritated by his continued refusal to believe her.



Aggravate, synonyms

  • bother
  • irritate
  • provoke
  • bug
  • dog
  • exasperate
  • gall
  • get
  • get on one’s nerves
  • grate
  • hack



Irritate, synonyms

  • annoy
  • bother
  • confuse
  • disturb
  • enrage
  • exasperate
  • gall
  • incense
  • inflame
  • infuriate
  • irk
  • offend
  • peeve
  • provoke



Word origin (of aggravate/irritate)

1520s, “make heavy, burden down,” from Latin aggravatus, past participle of aggravare “to render more troublesome,” literally “to make heavy or heavier, add to the weight of,” from ad “to” (see ad-) + gravare “weigh down,” from gravis “heavy”.

1530s, “stimulate to action, rouse, incite,” from Latin irritatus, past participle of irritare “excite, provoke, annoy”.



Read about other misused words

Commonly misused wordsUK English vs. US English
former vs. latterburned or burnt?
bear with vs. bare withcolor or colour?
breathe or breathfavorite vs. favourite
compliment vs. complementsmelled or smelt?
effect vs. affectgray or grey?
elude or alludefavor vs. favour
it’s or itsanalyze or analyse?



Sources

  1. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary on “aggravate” and “irritate”. Accessed 31 March, 2024.
  2. Harper, Douglas. “Etymology of aggravate.” Online Etymology Dictionary, https://www.etymonline.com/word/aggravate. Accessed 31 March, 2024.


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