To irritate is to cause an unsettling reaction, whether it's of the body or the nerves. You can irritate someone by talking too loudly on your cellphone in public. You can also irritate your skin, causing a rash or redness.

To irritate is to disturb — either physically or psychologically. When you have an allergic reaction to something, you irritate or disturb the body. When you have an allergic reaction to your kid brother, he is probably irritating you with his annoying habits. And what is the result of something irritating? An irritation of course.

Definitions of irritate
  1. verb
    cause annoyance in; disturb, especially by minor irritations
    “It irritates me that she never closes the door after she leaves”
    synonyms: annoy, bother, chafe, devil, get at, get to, gravel, nark, nettle, rag, rile, vex
    feel extreme irritation or anger
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    get, get under one's skin
    eat into, fester, fret, gnaw, grate, rankle
    gnaw into; make resentful or angry
    cause to be annoyed, irritated, or resentful
    trouble or vex
    cause annoyance in
    beset, chevvy, chevy, chivvy, chivy, harass, harry, hassle, molest, plague, provoke
    annoy continually or chronically
    antagonise, antagonize
    provoke the hostility of
    goad, needle
    goad or provoke, as by constant criticism
    bedevil, crucify, dun, frustrate, rag, torment
    treat cruelly
    harass by imposing humiliating or painful tasks, as in military institutions
    type of:
    give displeasure to
  2. verb
    excite to an abnormal condition, or chafe or inflame
    “Aspirin irritates my stomach”
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    cause to feel better
    chafe, fret, gall
    become or make sore by or as if by rubbing
    itch, rub, scratch
    scrape or rub as if to relieve itching
    type of:
    aggravate, exacerbate, exasperate, worsen
    make worse
  3. verb
    excite to some characteristic action or condition, such as motion, contraction, or nervous impulse, by the application of a stimulus
    irritate the glands of a leaf”
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    pinch, vellicate
    irritate as if by a nip, pinch, or tear
    type of:
    excite, stimulate
    act as a stimulant
Commonly confused words

aggravate / irritate

Aggravate means to make something worse, and irritate is to annoy. But if you use aggravate to mean “annoy,” no one will notice. That battle has been lost in all but the most formal writing.

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