In a technical report: One setting causes a problem to arise. Another setting causes this negative effect to get worse.

For example:" When setting the switch to "magic" the runtime increased. Hitting the machine with a hammer [foo'ed] the problem. "

I have the feeling that "exasperate" or "expedite" could maybe be used to describe this but that they don't quite hit the mark.

  • 1
    'experdite' isn't a word.
    – nomen
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 1:22
  • 18
    Why not worsen?
    – Anonym
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 3:42
  • 2
    You might want to use Reverse Dictionary for your future single-word problems.
    – Helix Quar
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 9:54
  • 1
    Just s/foo'ed/foobar'd/ and you've captured it.
    – som-snytt
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 0:30
  • 2
    I hate that worsen is a word. Its the least winningest word Commented May 9, 2014 at 8:17

8 Answers 8


Similar in spelling, but more apt in meaning, to your example of exasperate is:


Make (a problem, bad situation, or negative feeling) worse

  • 5
    +1 first word that popped into my mind before reading answers. Commented May 7, 2014 at 17:56
  • 6
  • 2
    Exacerbate means more bitter, like acerbic, as in rubbing salt in a wound. The question sounds like it's looking for an exponential effect, perhaps.
    – som-snytt
    Commented May 9, 2014 at 0:37
  • @som-snytt do you have any references or examples for this more specific definition? I've never come across it before, and at least in the case of my own personal 'feel' for the word exarcebate, I don't sense any such connotation.
    – 568ml
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 7:18
  • @568ml I meant etymologically. In usage, I did mean exacerbate means worsen but not Armageddon. Not an expert, but here's a usage distinguishing "acute exacerbation" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. If an action exacerbated a situation because now everyone is dead, that would be understatement. BTW, re-reading the OP, I now think OP wants exacerbate and not "it crashed and burned and died." I was extrapolating from my experiences with hammers.
    – som-snytt
    Commented May 12, 2014 at 7:50

I think you are looking for Worsen

To make or become worse

or Aggravate

To make worse or more severe; intensify, as anything evil, disorderly, or troublesome

  • 2
    Both are very fine options. However, if it were me I would simply write "hitting the machine with a hammer made the problem worse."
    – ghoppe
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 17:46
  • It might be good to point out that "aggravate" is (most?) often used incorrectly for "annoy".
    – Martin F
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 21:31
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    @martinf nothing "incorrect" about it. The word simply has both meanings.
    – terdon
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 15:58
  • @terdon - Your source mostly confirms my assertion!
    – Martin F
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 21:31
  • @martinf -- all the more reason to use it properly and often, thereby reminding people of its actual meaning. I think it was Philip Roth who said it wasn't until he was in college that he learned that "aggravate" wasn't a Yiddish word. Commented May 9, 2014 at 10:31

Another setting compounds the problem.

compound: Make (something bad) worse; intensify the negative aspects of: prisoners' lack of contact with the outside world compounds their problems.

  • 1
    Note that "compound" can work both ways. If the current situation is good, compounding it would make it better. (The word seems more commonly used in a negative way, and using it to make something good better is an odd usage, bu not exactly incorrect.)
    – cHao
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 21:29
  • "confound" is a variant that focused on the negative aspect
    – paj28
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 10:59
  • 3
    @paj28: confound is something different: cause surprise or confusion in (someone), especially by not according with their expectations.
    – martijnve
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 12:21

Escalate comes to mind:

become or cause to become more intense or serious.



The [problem/situation] only escalated when I threw paper towels into the fire. (I don't know where I got that idea.)


You may use impair:

  • to make or cause to become worse; weaken; damage:

Source: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Impair

  • Doesn't quite fit the question: "Hitting the machine with a hammer impaired the problem." is incorrect.
    – egrunin
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 18:12
  • @egrunin Agreed. This appears to be because "impair" seems to imply that it was fine before becoming impaired. Where the sentence calls for a word that means it was already bad, but it got worse.
    – Cruncher
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 18:50
  • 3
    @egrunin To me that actually reads as if it improved the situation. Impairing the problem would seem to me to be fixing the situation.
    – Vality
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 19:53

How about deteriorate

From Thesaurus: 1 worsen, decline, degenerate; fail, slump, slip, go downhill, wane, ebb; go to pot. ANTONYMS improve. 2 decay, degrade, degenerate, break down, decompose, rot, go off, spoil, perish; break up, disintegrate, crumble, fall apart.

  • 2
    Good option, but I think it needs to be pointed out that one does not deteriorate a bad situation, the situation does that. So this does not mean "make something worse", but rather "become worse".
    – oerkelens
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 18:02

Consider "intensify" (a problem, a difficulty, etc.).

One setting causes a problem to arise. Another setting causes this negative effect to intensify.

  • Strictly speaking, I think "increase" should only be used for quantitative things (e.g. "...causes the error rate to increase") or for things that have an inherent degree or intensity ("...causes my unhappiness to increase"). Saying "causes the effect to increase" doesn't sound right to me, though "causes the effect's strength to increase" does. Commented May 7, 2014 at 20:06
  • I would say that intensify connotes and increase of degree over the same span of time e.g. the sun is more intense 11:30am-12:30pm than in the same span before or after.
    – TechZen
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 3:47
  • See, this one has neither link nor attribution. Could you please fix that? Thanks.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jul 7, 2014 at 22:41

Math can come to the rescue.


'Compounded' -- literally, it means something along the lines of "made it bigger." Which would seem to fit problems and what hitting with hammers does to problems.

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