1. To increase the action or violence of; to heighten excitement in; to intensify; to stimulate. "Cold maketh the spirits vigorous and irritateth them." (Bacon)

2. To excite anger or displeasure in; to provoke; to tease; to exasperate; to annoy; to vex; as, the insolence of a tyrant irritates his subjects. "Dismiss the man, nor irritate the god: Prevent the rage of him who reigns above." (Pope)

3. <physiology> To produce irritation in; to stimulate; to cause to contract. See Irritation.

4. <medicine> To make morbidly excitable, or oversensitive; to fret; as, the skin is irritated by friction; to irritate a wound by a coarse bandage.

Synonyms: To fret, inflame, excite, provoke, tease, vex, exasperate, anger, incense, enrage.

To Irritate, Provoke, Exasperate. These words express different stages of excited or angry feeling. Irritate denotes an excitement of quick and slightly angry feeling which is only momentary; as, irritated by a hasty remark. To provoke implies the awakening of some open expression of decided anger; as, a provoking insult. Exasperate denotes a provoking of anger at something unendurable. Whatever comes across our feelings irritates; whatever excites anger provokes; whatever raises anger to a high point exasperates. "Susceptible and nervous people are most easily irritated; proud people are quickly provoked; hot and fiery people are soonest exasperated."

Origin: L. Irritatus, p. P. Of irritare. Of doubtful origin.

(01 Mar 1998)