Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Mitigate


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

What It Means

To mitigate something is to make it less severe, harmful, or painful.// One way we can mitigate the impact the construction project will have on residents is to commit to completing the project in the allotted time.

MITIGATE in Context

“Race, gender, disabilities, and other biases may be inadvertently embedded in artificial intelligence systems, forcing computational systems to replicate historical problems. The explosion of new AI technology needs a call-to-action from regulators and organizations to mitigate those risks with best practices for AI applications.” — Annette Hagood, Washington Technology, 13 June 2023

Did You Know?

The meaning of mitigate is straightforward enough: to make something—such as a problem, symptom, or punishment—less harsh or severe. Sometimes, however, mitigate appears where the similar-looking militate is expected. That word, which is often followed by against, means “to have weight or effect,” as in “your unexcused absences are likely to militate against your getting a promotion.” The two words are not closely related (mitigate comes from the Latin verb mitigare, meaning “to soften,” whereas militate traces to militare, meaning “to engage in warfare”), but the confusion between the two has existed for long enough that some usage commentators have accepted “mitigate against” as an idiomatic alternative to militate. Even William Faulkner used mitigate in this way in his 1932 short story, Centaur in Brass, writing “It’s as though there were some intangible and invisible social force that mitigates against him.” Unless you’re Faulkner, though, it’s probably best to keep mitigate and militate distinct.

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