Origin and usage
The verb ramp is an ancient one, but its use to mean ‘increase’ has only been around since the late 20th century.
Anyone who has tuned into any of the recent daily briefings by UK government ministers and scientific advisers will have heard the phrasal verb ramp up, probably more times than they can count. This is a comparatively recent meaning of the verb ramp, first recorded in the 1970s with the meaning of to drive up the price of a stock or currency, often fraudulently, in order to profit from it. In this meaning the verb is used sometimes with the adverb ‘up’, sometimes without. Within a few years ramp up was being used more generally to mean to increase something in an intense way, or to increase in this way. Typical object noun collocates of ramp up include things like production, spending, manufacturing and tension, while additional subject collocates include nouns like pace, intensity and rhetoric. These days the talk is mostly of ramping up testing, or supplies of PPE or personal protective equipment, a new meaning to many of us. People also talk about testing and supplies ramping up, as if to suggest that the process is occurring independently of human intervention; the choice of the intransitive form may be intended to add to the sense of dynamism and activity already inherent in the verb.
“As they approached the final climb, the pace significantly ramped up as the big teams battled for position.”
“Buyers are waiting weeks to receive their orders as production is ramped up to meet demand.”
step up, boost, crank up