Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Alleviate


The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is alleviate. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Alleviate means “to make something less painful, difficult, or severe” or “to partially remove or correct.”

// Mom’s suggestions for ways to alleviate some of my cold symptoms included her special tea and plenty of sleep.

// The new tunnel should alleviate traffic on the bridge.

ALLEVIATE in Context

“People have tried to alleviate their climate anxiety in many ways.” — Antonia Mufarech, Smithsonian Magazine, 18 May 2022

Did You Know?

Now for a bit of light reading. Alleviatecomes from Latin levis, meaning “having little weight.” (Levis also gave rise to the English adjective light, as in “not heavy.”) In its early days, alleviate could mean “to cause (something) to have less weight” or “to make (something) more tolerable.” The literal “make lighter” sense is no longer used, and today only the “relieve” sense remains. Incidentally, not only is alleviate a synonym of relieve, it’s also a cousin; relieve comes from levare (“to raise”), which in turn comes from levis.

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