Printable Version
Pronunciation: eg--sêr-bayt Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: Aggravate, worsen, make more severe.

Notes: Should you ever need a more formal or longer word than worsen, look no further; today's word serves the purpose. It comes with a noun, exacerbation, and two rarely used adjectives, exacerbative and exacerbescent "beginning to worsen".

In Play: This rather long word carries more gravitas than worsen: "Committees and organizations that try to alleviate the problems of our lives often exacerbate them." However, it comes in handy around the house: "Hank's defense against responsibility for breaking the lamp, that he was at a friend's house smoking grass, only exacerbated his situation."

Word History: Today's Good Word is a back-formation from Latin exacerbatio(n), the action noun of exacerbare "to exasperate, provoke", comprising ex- "(away) from, out of" + acerbus "harsh, bitter". This adjective was based on acer "sharp, keen", the Latin remodeling of PIE ak- "sharp; stone", source also of Sanskrit acri- "corner, edge", Greek akros "at the pinnacle, summit; excellent", Russian ostriy "sharp", German Eck "corner", Welsh ochr "edge, corner", the English verb egg (on) "to goad, incite", Albanian acar "harshly, roughly", Italian aceto "vinegar", Welsh hogi "to sharpen, hone", Norwegian agge "grudge", and Russian and Serbian igla "needle". (Now let our gratitude be known for Joakim Larsson of Sweden, who thought we might enjoy today's grave Good Word.)

Dr. Goodword,

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