For many years grammarians have
claimed that "aggravate" can only mean to "make worse."
"Irritate," they argue means "to provoke impatience, anger, or
But, hold on just a second: the
meaning of "aggravate" as a synonym for "irritate" has been around
for four hundred years! In fact, Merriam Webster Dictionary notes
that "aggravation" and "aggravating" are almost exclusively used
to mean some form of irritation.
Only in the most carefully edited
prose do you find "aggravate" used to mean "make worse." In most
other uses, particularly for reporting speech or writing dialogue,
prefer "aggravate" to "irritate."
See our most