In the past, some experts said you should avoid using “aggravate” to mean “annoy” or “irritate.”
The verb “to aggravate” came to English from a Latin word that means “to make heavier.” The same root gives us the words “grief” and “gravity.”
In Latin, it meant to make things heavier, not just heavy—in other words, worse—and the argument that “aggravate” must mean “to make something worse” instead of just “to annoy or irritate” hinges on that origin. It can refer to a feeling or a physical problem:
- Having your friend text me right after our fight just aggravated the situation.
- I know you meant well, but Sarah is allergic to flowers, so sending roses when she had a cold actually aggravated her symptoms.