Definition of escalate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɛskəleɪt/


[no object]
1Increase rapidly: the price of tickets escalated (as adjective escalating) the escalating cost of health care
More example sentences
  • But the problem is that with rapidly escalating costs we are getting less for our money.
  • In turn, the increased prices caused health costs to escalate in a vicious circle.
  • The main factor that will put a brake on house price rises next year will be gradually escalating interest rates.
increase rapidly, soar, rocket, shoot up, mount, surge, spiral, grow rapidly, rise rapidly, climb, go up
informal be jacked up, go through the ceiling, go through the roof, skyrocket, balloon
1.1Make or become more intense or serious: [no object]: the disturbance escalated into a full-scale riot [with object]: we do not want to escalate the war
More example sentences
  • Indeed, for each of these countries ethnic conflict has escalated into civil war.
  • A local show of strength then escalated into a confrontation with police.
  • It could easily have escalated into something far more serious, the spokesperson stressed.
grow, develop, mushroom, increase, be increased, be stepped up, build up, heighten, strengthen, intensify, accelerate, be extended, be enlarged, be magnified, be amplified


1920s (in the sense 'travel on an escalator'): back-formation from escalator.

  • To escalate was originally ‘to travel on an escalator’. The word came from escalator and was coined in the early 1920s, when escalators were still new and exciting. It is now so familiar that it is quite a surprise to realize that we have only been using it to mean ‘increase rapidly’ and ‘become more intense or serious’ since the 1950s. Escalator itself started life in 1900, as a trade name in America. It was derived from the early 19th-century word escalade, which meant ‘to scale a fortified wall by ladder’, and was suggested by elevator, the US word for ‘lift’, which had been around since the 1880s.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: es¦cal|ate

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