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verb pre·cip·i·tate \pri-ˈsi-pə-ˌtāt\

Simple Definition of precipitate

  • : to cause (something) to happen quickly or suddenly

  • : to become separated from a liquid especially by a chemical process

  • : to cause (something solid) to become separated from a liquid especially by a chemical process

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of precipitate


  1. transitive verb
  2. 1 a :  to throw violently :  hurl <the quandaries into which the release of nuclear energy has precipitated mankind — A. B. Arons> b :  to throw down

  3. 2 :  to bring about especially abruptly <precipitate a scandal that would end with his expulsion — John Cheever>

  4. 3 a :  to cause to separate from solution or suspension b :  to cause (vapor) to condense and fall or deposit

  5. intransitive verb
  6. 1 a :  to fall headlong b :  to fall or come suddenly into some condition

  7. 2 :  to move or act with violent or unwise speed

  8. 3 a :  to separate from solution or suspension b :  to condense from a vapor and fall as rain or snow

precipitative play \-ˌtā-tiv\ adjective
precipitator play \-ˌtā-tər\ noun

Examples of precipitate in a sentence

  1. When Achilles is informed by his mother, the sea-goddess Thetis, that vanquishing Hector on the battlefield will precipitate his own demise, he unhesitatingly opts for the gusto. —Mark Leyner, Time, 13 Nov. 2000

  2. The vast room darkens. The videotape … begins on two identical screens set high above the nave. The soaring lyrics of LeeAnn Rimes's “How Do I Live (Without You)” precipitate a collective tension and welling, repressed tearfulness. —Jayne Anne Phillips, Harper's, November 1998

  3. Her death precipitated a family crisis.

  4. The budget problem was precipitated by many unexpected costs.

  5. minerals that precipitate from seawater

Origin of precipitate

Latin praecipitatus, past participle of praecipitare, from praecipit-, praeceps (see precipice)

First Known Use: 1528

Rhymes with precipitate

abbreviate, abominate, accelerate, accentuate, accommodate, acculturate, accumulate, adjudicate, adulterate, affiliate, agglomerate, alienate, alleviate, alliterate, amalgamate, ameliorate, amyl nitrate, annihilate, annunciate, anticipate, apostolate, appreciate, appropriate, approximate, arpeggiate, articulate, asphyxiate, assassinate, asseverate, assimilate, associate, at any rate, attenuate, authenticate, barbiturate, bicarbonate, calumniate, capacitate, capitulate, catholicate, certificate, coagulate, coelenterate, collaborate, commemorate, commiserate, communicate, compassionate, concatenate, conciliate, confabulate, confederate, conglomerate, congratulate, consolidate, contaminate, cooperate, coordinate, corroborate, deactivate, debilitate, decapitate, decelerate, decerebrate, deconcentrate, deconsecrate, decorticate, decrepitate, de-escalate, defibrinate, defoliate, degenerate, deliberate, delineate, demodulate, denominate, depopulate, depreciate, deracinate, deregulate, desegregate, desiderate, detoxicate, devaluate, diaconate, dilapidate, discriminate, disintegrate, disseminate, dissimulate, dissociate, domesticate, effectuate, ejaculate, elaborate, electroplate, eliminate, elucidate, emaciate, emancipate, emasculate, encapsulate, enumerate, enunciate, episcopate, equivocate, eradicate, etiolate, evacuate, evaluate, evaporate, eventuate, eviscerate, exacerbate, exaggerate, exasperate, excited state, excogitate, excoriate, exfoliate, exhilarate, exonerate, expatiate, expatriate, expectorate, expostulate, expropriate, extenuate, exterminate, extrapolate, facilitate, felicitate, fish or cut bait, garrison state, gesticulate, habilitate, habituate, hallucinate, humiliate, hydrogenate, hypothecate, illuminate, impersonate, inactivate, inaugurate, incarcerate, incinerate, incorporate, incriminate, indoctrinate, inebriate, infatuate, infuriate, ingratiate, ingurgitate, initiate, inoculate, inseminate, insinuate, instantiate, intercalate, interpolate, interrelate, interrogate, intimidate, intoxicate, invalidate, investigate, invigorate, irradiate, Italianate, Korea Strait, lanceolate, legitimate, luxuriate, mandarinate, manipulate, matriarchate, matriculate, Merthiolate, necessitate, negotiate, noncandidate, obliterate, officiate, Orange Free State, orientate, originate, oxygenate, participate, particulate, patriarchate, patriciate, perambulate, peregrinate, perpetuate, pontificate, predestinate, predominate, prefabricate, premeditate, preponderate, prevaricate, procrastinate, prognosticate, proliferate, propitiate, proportionate, quadruplicate, quintuplicate, reciprocate, recriminate, recuperate, redecorate, reduplicate, reeducate, refrigerate, regenerate, regurgitate, reincarnate, reintegrate, reiterate, rejuvenate, remunerate, repatriate, repudiate, resuscitate, retaliate, reticulate, revaluate, reverberate, scholasticate, second estate, self-flagellate, self-immolate, self-pollinate, seventy-eight, sextuplicate, Singapore Strait, sophisticate, subordinate, substantiate, syllabicate, tergiversate, transliterate, triangulate, vanity plate, variegate, vaticinate, vituperate, vociferate



noun pre·cip·i·tate \pri-ˈsi-pə-tət, -ˌtāt\

Simple Definition of precipitate

  • : a solid substance that is separated from a liquid especially by a chemical process

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of precipitate

  1. 1 :  a substance separated from a solution or suspension by chemical or physical change usually as an insoluble amorphous or crystalline solid

  2. 2 :  a product, result, or outcome of some process or action

Examples of precipitate in a sentence

  1. Yet trained, and by nature inclined, to persevere through the stenches, messes, explosions and disasters of a laboratory, he fixed his gaze upon an unlikely precipitate: human resilience, a sort of radioactive trace element. —Richard Eder, New York Times Book Review, 16 June 2002

  2. <the exodus from the cities was an unexpected precipitate of the automobile, which effectively shrank distances>

  3. <the chemist filtered out the precipitate from the solution>

Origin of precipitate

New Latin praecipitatum, from Latin, neuter of praecipitatus (see 1precipitate)

First Known Use: 1594

Other Chemical Engineering Terms



adjective pre·cip·i·tate \pri-ˈsi-pə-tət\

Simple Definition of precipitate

  • : happening very quickly or too quickly without enough thought or planning

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of precipitate

  1. 1 a :  falling, flowing, or rushing with steep descent b :  precipitous, steep

  2. 2 :  exhibiting violent or unwise speed

precipitately adverb
precipitateness noun

Examples of precipitate in a sentence

  1. The precipitate decline in support for Aristide has probably less to do with Haiti's political crisis than with the continuous and unrelenting economic battering: the Haitian gourde, which a year ago was trading at 27 to the dollar, by late February was down to 55 to the dollar. —Peter Dailey, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002

  2. Almost at once I began to remember why drive-ins went into such a precipitate decline. To begin with, it is not remotely comfortable to sit in a car to watch a movie. —Bill Bryson, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999

  3. Assuming that the offering goes ahead—and only a precipitate slide in the stock market will stop it—a big slice of Wall Street history will disappear. —John Cassidy, New Yorker, 8 Mar. 1999

  4. <the army's precipitate withdrawal from the field of battle>

Did You Know?

Many people, including usage commentators, are insistent about keeping the adjectives "precipitate" and "precipitous" distinct. "Precipitate," they say, means "headlong" or "impetuous"; "precipitous" means only "steep." And, indeed, "precipitate" is used mostly in the "headlong" sense, whereas "precipitous" usually means "steep." But one shouldn't be too hasty about insisting on the distinction. The truth is that "precipitate" and "precipitous" have had a tendency to overlap for centuries. Lexicographer Samuel Johnson, in his dictionary of 1755, defined "precipitate" as "steeply falling," "headlong," and "hasty," while "precipitous" was "headlong; steep," and "hasty." Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary included much the same definitions. The words' etymologies overlap as well. Both ultimately come from Latin praeceps, which means "headlong."

Origin of precipitate

(see 2precipitate)

First Known Use: 1615

Synonym Discussion of precipitate

precipitate, headlong, abrupt, impetuous, sudden mean showing undue haste or unexpectedness. precipitate stresses lack of due deliberation and implies prematureness of action <the army's precipitate withdrawal>. headlong stresses rashness and lack of forethought <a headlong flight from arrest>. abrupt stresses curtness and a lack of warning or ceremony <an abrupt refusal>. impetuous stresses extreme impatience or impulsiveness <an impetuous lover proposing marriage>. sudden stresses unexpectedness and sharpness or violence of action <flew into a sudden rage>.

PRECIPITATE Defined for Kids


verb pre·cip·i·tate \pri-ˈsi-pə-ˌtāt\

Definition of precipitate for Students


  1. 1 :  to cause to happen suddenly or unexpectedly <The misunderstanding precipitated a quarrel.>

  2. 2 :  to change from a vapor to a liquid or solid and fall as rain or snow

  3. 3 :  to separate from a solution <The procedure called for precipitating salt from seawater.>

Seen and Heard

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immature or lacking adult sophistication

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