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Learn the Difference Between “Exasperate” and “Exacerbate” With Definitions and Examples

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“Exasperate” and “exacerbate” are two words people often use incorrectly because of their similar spelling and pronunciation. We’ll teach you what both of them mean so that you can use them correctly from here on out!

White text over white background reads "exasperate vs exacerbate."
“Exasperate” and “exacerbate” are two commonly confused words.
“Exasperate” vs. “Exacerbate”: Quick Summary

Exasperate is a verb that means “to irritate, frustrate, or annoy,” whereas exacerbate means to “make something worse.”

  • He likes to exasperate me by asking silly questions.
  • I warned her she would exacerbate her sadness if she went through the old photos.

Have you ever kept a word in your mental inventory for years, only to find out in the worst possible situation that you’ve been using it incorrectly the entire time? It’s not a good feeling, especially if you pride yourself on your proficiency in grammar and vocabulary.

This often happens with two commonly confused words—exasperate and exacerbate. It’s not unusual for people to incorrectly use the former in place of the latter.

To help you avoid finding yourself in situations where someone corrects your word choice, we’ll thoroughly go over what these words mean and review example sentences.

Let’s begin!

Graphic shows frustrated looking bear with text that reads "When you exacerbate your frustration by accidentally saying exasperate instead of exacerbate."
Don’t be exasperated; this blog post will teach you how to use these words.

“Exasperate” Meaning

Exasperate means “to irritate, frustrate, or annoy intensely.”

Have you ever been studying in a silent room only to find someone incessantly tapping their fingernails on the table, making it difficult to focus? That’s the type of situation that may exasperate you enough to ask them to stop.

Trust us when we say that you don’t want to find yourself exasperated, nor do you want to be the type of person that exasperates others.


“Exasperate” Example Sentences

Here are a few examples of how to use the word “exasperate” in a sentence:

My sister exasperated me because she’s always late, but I trusted her when she promised me she would be on time for my show.
It’s exasperating to keep studying for a test for hours on end, only to keep failing it.
I didn’t mean to exasperate her; I just had so many questions I wanted answered.  
Graham says he feels exasperated because he keeps applying for several jobs but receives no callbacks.
I love my new kitty, but her constant need for attention can sometimes exasperate me.

“Exacerbate” Meaning

Exacerbate is a verb that means “to make something worse, especially a bad feeling, situation, or problem.”

Imagine you have a small cut on your knee and keep picking the scab with dirty hands, which leads to a minor infection. You have exacerbated a slight injury by worsening it into something you now have to take medication for.


“Exacerbate” Example Sentences

The examples below will show you how to use exacerbate in a sentence.

I learned that telling my wife she’s overreacting only exacerbates the problem.
The ice cream I ate after dinner exacerbated my tummy ache, as I knew it would.
Erick suggested I may have accidentally exacerbated the issue by giving unsolicited advice.
Many athletes exacerbate their injuries by not resting enough.
I didn’t mean to, but I think I exacerbated his sadness when I told him I would return in six months instead of three.  

Using “Exasperate” and “Exacerbate” Correctly

  • Exasperate means to intensely frustrate or irritate.
  • Exacerbate means to make something bad worse.

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