Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Wikipedia.


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.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.




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.

Picturesque Expressions: A Thematic Dictionary, 1st Edition. © 1980 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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)
Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.


[ɪgˌzæsərˈbeɪʃən] nexacerbation f
Collins English/French Electronic Resource. © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


n (of pain, disease, problem)Verschlimmerung f; (of situation, crisis, tensions)Verschärfung f
Collins German Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged 7th Edition 2005. © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1980 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2007


[ɪgˌzæsəˈbeɪʃn] n (see vb) → aggravamento, esacerbazione f, inasprimento
Collins Italian Dictionary 1st Edition © HarperCollins Publishers 1995


n. exacerbación, agravamiento de un síntoma o enfermedad.
English-Spanish Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012


n exacerbación f, agudización f
English-Spanish/Spanish-English Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2006 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
To emphasize the potential seriousness of bronchiectasis, one patient died of an acute exacerbation of bronchiectasis in the NAC group, and two died of the same cause in the control group.
Beware the COPD exacerbation !-- -- A 70-year-old man with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is admitted with increased shortness of breath.
[5] The aim of this study was to compare the renal functions between stable COPD patients and patients who were in the exacerbation period and also to investigate the frequency of acute renal failure (ARF) in COPD exacerbation.
A COPD exacerbation is a sudden worsening of symptoms, such as increased breathlessness, cough, mucus production and extreme fatigue.
However, spirometry values are not part of the classification scheme that defines treatment decisions because of the limited correlation between spirometry classification and functional ability, QoL, and future exacerbation risk.
"The higher exacerbation risk in patients with ≥300 blood eosinophils/[micro]l suggests that these patients are likely to benefit from triple therapy," the authors write.
In this review, we summarized the existing evidence that demonstrates the associations between COPD exacerbation and PE from various aspects, including epidemiology, pathophysiological changes, risk factors, clinical features, management, and prognosis.
SAN DIEGO -- In patients on long-term triple therapy and up to one exacerbation in the previous year, the withdrawal of inhaled corticosteroids (ICS) led to a small decrease in lung function that was not clinically important, with no associated difference in the rates of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbations, dyspnea, or as-needed bronchodilator use.
AECOPD, COPD, Exacerbation, Frequent exacerbator phenotype, Risk factors, Lung function.
Objective: To determine role of vitamin D in prevention of acute exacerbation of bronchial asthma in adults when added to standard treatment.