the new law could aggravate the situation

worsen, make worse, exacerbate, inflame, compound; add fuel to the fire/flames, add insult to injury, rub salt in the wound
alleviate, improve
2) informal

you don't have to aggravate people to get what you want

annoy, irritate, exasperate, bother, put out, nettle, provoke, antagonize, get on someone's nerves, ruffle (someone's feathers), try someone's patience; informal peeve, needle, bug, miff, get under someone's skin; tick off
calm, conciliate
aggravate, aggravation
Though documented as existing since the 1600s, aggravate for annoy or irritate has never gained the approval of stylists and should be avoided in formal writing. Strictly speaking, aggravate means "make worse; exacerbate": writing a second apology might just aggravate the problem. Even the eloquent American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., nodded once, using aggravate for irritate in a letter penned in 1895: "Our two countries aggravate each other from time to time."
In some contexts, it's genuinely difficult to tell whether the word aggravating is a present participle or an adjective — e.g.: "The City of Washington is notorious for aggravating allergies, and Mr. Clinton said he expected his to be more severe there than in Arkansas." (New York Times; Oct. 14, 1996.) The second half of that compound sentence suggests that the writer is using aggravating correctly. But taken alone, the phrase in the first half of the sentence ("Washington is notorious for aggravating allergies") could refer to either (1) making allergies worse (the preferred usage), or (2) allergies that are irritating or frustrating.
The confusion also occurs between the noun forms — e.g.: "Rush Limbaugh … has an extra tone of aggravation [read irritation] as he denounces the unyielding poll leads of ‘the Schlickmeister’ and ‘noted hetero fun-seeker,’ President Clinton." (New York Times; Sept. 25, 1996.)
Perhaps exasperate contributes to the misuse of aggravate (which sounds a bit like exasperate) in the sense of irritate (which is close in meaning to exasperate). Also, when aggravate is used in this sense it often implies something more intense than merely irritate. It is closer in meaning to exasperate. — BG

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  • Aggravate — Ag gra*vate, v. t. [imp. & p. p. {Aggravated}; p. pr. & vb. n. {Aggravating}.] [L. aggravatus, p. p. of aggravare. See {Aggrieve}.] 1. To make heavy or heavier; to add to; to increase. [Obs.] To aggravate thy store. Shak. [1913 Webster] 2. To… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • aggravate — ag·gra·vate / a grə ˌvāt/ vt vat·ed, vat·ing: to make more serious, more severe, or worse maliciousness aggravated the offense aggravated her preexisting condition aggravating factors compare …   Law dictionary

  • aggravate — (v.) 1520s, make heavy, burden down, from pp. adjective aggravate burdened; threatened (late 15c.), from L. aggravatus, pp. of aggravare to render more troublesome, lit. to make heavy (see AGGRAVATION (Cf. aggravation)). Earlier in this sense was …   Etymology dictionary

  • aggravate — The meaning ‘to annoy or exasperate’ has existed in good sources since the early 17c; despite this, Fowler (1926) recommended that it ‘should be left to the uneducated’. The dominance of the current sense has not put paid to the original meaning …   Modern English usage

  • aggravate — [v1] annoy be at*, be on the back of*, bother, bug, bum*, dog, drive up the wall*, exasperate, gall, get, get on one’s nerves, get to, give a hard time, grate, hack, irk, irritate, nag, needle, nettle, peeve, pester, pick on, pique, provoke,… …   New thesaurus

  • aggravate — ► VERB 1) make worse. 2) informal annoy or exasperate. DERIVATIVES aggravating adjective aggravation noun. USAGE Aggravate in the sense ‘annoy or exasperate’ is in widespread use in modern English and dates back to the 17th century, but the use… …   English terms dictionary

  • aggravate — 1 heighten, *intensify, enhance Analogous words: magnify, aggrandize (see EXALT): augment, *increase, multiply, enlarge Antonyms: alleviate Contrasted words: lighten, mitigate, allay (see RELIEVE): *palliate, extenuate: lessen, reduce, diminish,… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

  • aggravate — [ag′rə vāt΄] vt. aggravated, aggravating [< L aggravatus, pp. of aggravare, to make heavier < ad , to + gravis, heavy: see GRAVE1] 1. to make worse; make more burdensome, troublesome, etc. 2. Informal to exasperate; annoy; vex SYN.… …   English World dictionary

  • aggravate — aggravative, adj. aggravator, n. /ag reuh vayt /, v.t., aggravated, aggravating. 1. to make worse or more severe; intensify, as anything evil, disorderly, or troublesome: to aggravate a grievance; to aggravate an illness. 2. to annoy; irritate;… …   Universalium

  • aggravate — transitive verb ( vated; vating) Etymology: Latin aggravatus, past participle of aggravare to make heavier, from ad + gravare to burden, from gravis heavy more at grieve Date: 1530 1. obsolete a. to make heavy ; burden …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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