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tr.v. ex·ac·er·bat·ed, ex·ac·er·bat·ing, ex·ac·er·bates
To increase the severity, violence, or bitterness of; aggravate: a speech that exacerbated racial tensions; a heavy rainfall that exacerbated the flood problems.

[Latin exacerbāre, exacerbāt- : ex-, intensive pref.; see ex- + acerbāre, to make harsh (from acerbus, harsh; see ak- in Indo-European roots).]

ex·ac′er·ba′tion n.




add fuel to the fire To make a bad situation worse; to intensify; to say or do something to increase the anger of a person already incensed. Literally adding fuel to a fire increases the strength with which the flames blaze, just as metaphorically adding “something that serves to feed or inflame passion, excitement, or the like … especially love or rage” (OED), intensifies the passion.

add insult to injury To heap scorn on one already injured. The phrase is from the Aesop fable of a baldheaded man who, having been bitten on his pate by a fly, tries to kill the insect. In doing so, he gives himself a painful blow. The fly jeeringly remarks:

You wished to kill me for a mere touch. What will you do to yourself, since you have added insult to injury?

confusion worse confounded Chaos compounded or made greater than before. John Milton uses the expression in Paradise Lost (1667):

With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,
Confusion worse confounded.

The unusual syntactical structure of this expression may be clarified by noting that the obsolete or archaic meaning of confound was ‘to overthrow, to bring to ruin’ while the obsolete meaning of confusion was ‘Overthrow, ruin.’ Thus, the line confusion worse confounded follows the pattern of repetition found in the previous line.

cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face To cause one’s own hurt or loss through spiteful action; to cause injury to one-self or one’s own interests in pursuing revenge. This proverbial expression first appeared in print in 1785, when it was defined in Francis Grose’s A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue:

He cut off his nose to be revenged of his face. Said of one who, to be revenged on his neighbour, has materially injured himself.

This saying is believed to have come from the French se couper le nez pour faire dépit à son visage.

escape the bear and fall to the lion To be free of one predicament only to get involved in another more trying, complex, or dangerous one; to go from bad to worse. In use as early as the beginning of the 17th century, this expression suggests that there is danger to be met at every turn.

heap Pelion upon Ossa To make matters worse, to compound or aggravate things; also, to indulge in fruitless or futile efforts. The allusion is to the Greek myth of the giants who unsuccessfully tried to get to Olympus, home of the gods, by stacking Mount Pelion on Mount Ossa.

Job’s comforter One who either intentionally or unwittingly adds to another’s distress while supposedly consoling and comforting him. The allusion is to the Biblical Job’s three friends who come to commiserate with him over his misfortunes and who instead of consoling him only aggrieve him more by reproving him for his lack of faith and his resentful attitude. The term has been in use since at least 1738.

You are a Job’s comforter with a vengeance. (Mrs. B. M. Croker, Proper Pride, 1885)

out of the frying pan into the fire From bad to worse, from one disastrous situation to one even worse.

If they thought they could get away from the State by disestablishment, they would find that they were jumping out of the frying-pan into the fire. (The Guardian, October, 1890)

Use of the expression dates from the early 16th century.

rub salt in a wound To maliciously emphasize or reiterate something unfavorable or disagreeable with the express purpose of annoying someone; to continually harp on a person’s errors or shortcomings, especially those of which he is acutely conscious. Since salt, when placed on an open wound, causes painful stinging and discomfort, to actually rub salt into a wound would be excessively cruel and sadistic. Although recent medical research has shown that salt (such as in seawater) actually helps wounds to heal with minimal scarring, it is safe to assume that a person who figuratively rubs salt in a wound is not motivated by therapeutic concern. A popular and more widely used variation is rub it in.

Ye needn’t rub it in any more. (Rudyard Kipling, Captains Courageous, 1897)

when push comes to shove When a situation goes from bad to worse; when worse comes to worst; when the going gets tough. In this expression shove refers to an exaggerated—bigger and harder—push. Thus, when push comes to shove refers to the point at which subtlety gives way to flagrancy.

ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Noun1.exacerbation - action that makes a problem or a disease (or its symptoms) worseexacerbation - action that makes a problem or a disease (or its symptoms) worse; "the aggravation of her condition resulted from lack of care"
intensification - action that makes something stronger or more extreme
2.exacerbation - violent and bitter exasperation; "his foolishness was followed by an exacerbation of their quarrel"
exasperation - actions that cause great irritation (or even anger)


[ɪgˌzæsərˈbeɪʃən] nexacerbation f


n (of pain, disease, problem)Verschlimmerung f; (of situation, crisis, tensions)Verschärfung f


[ɪgˌzæsəˈbeɪʃn] n (see vb) → aggravamento, esacerbazione f, inasprimento


n. exacerbación, agravamiento de un síntoma o enfermedad.


n exacerbación f, agudización f
References in periodicals archive ?
This finding is consistent with the earlier LANTERN trial and is now expanded to patients with at least one exacerbation in the previous year.
Black adults with asthma did not see significant differences in time to exacerbation after adding a long-acting beta-agonist to their inhaled corticosteroid treatment, compared with adding tiotropium, according to results from a randomized, open-label trial.
DENVER -- Obesity and weight gain of more than 5 kg during the first trimester in women with asthma are significant predictors of asthma exacerbation during pregnancy, according to findings from the Management of Asthma during Pregnancy study.
In the analysis, patients were classified as a high exacerbation risk (a history of 2 or more exacerbations per year or a lung function forced expiratory volume <50% or both).
Various allergens, airborne irritants, and infections trigger exacerbation of asthma.
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This new algorithm stratifies patients with COPD on the basis of symptoms and exacerbation history.
Severity of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation is associated with increased level of copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), and lipid peroxidation (malodialdehyde, MDA).
There was also no difference between the two groups in the amount of time until patients had their first exacerbation, or in measures of lung functioning, fatigue or the risk of death.
Results also showed a substantial ataluren treatment effect in FEV1 and exacerbation rate in the pre-specified subpopulation of patients not receiving chronic inhaled antibiotics, representing approximately one half of the study population.
Researchers then measured time to exacerbation of COPD.