How to use "aggravate" correctly

This is an entry on my list of Common Errors in English Usage. Visit the main page for direct links to additional entries.

Although aggravate (along with other forms such as aggravating and aggravation) has long been commonly used to mean “to annoy or irritate,” some grammar police insist that its only proper usage is “to make worse; to exacerbate”:

aggravated by his constant nagging
annoyed/irritated by his constant nagging

he aggravated his injury while playing basketball

Related Resources

Common Errors in English Usage: Errors in diction and idiom commonly made by native speakers of English

List of Common Errors in English Usage (PDF): Printable version of the complete list

Common Grammar Errors: A list of common errors in grammar (topics like subject-verb agreement and parallelism) as distinct from usage

List of Common Errors in English Usage: PDF version

© 2006, 2008, and 2019 C. Brantley Collins, Jr.