1520s, "make heavy, burden down," from past participle adjective aggravate "burdened; threatened" (late 15c.), from Latin aggravatus, past participle of aggravare "to render more troublesome," literally "to make heavy" (see aggravation). Earlier in this sense was aggrege (late 14c.). Meaning "to make a bad thing worse" is from 1590s; that of "exasperate, annoy" is from 1610s.
Related: Aggravated; aggravating. Phrase aggravating circumstances is recorded from 1790.