assimilate

1 of 2

verb

as·​sim·​i·​late ə-ˈsi-mə-ˌlāt How to pronounce assimilate (audio)
assimilated; assimilating

transitive verb

1
a
: to take into the mind and thoroughly understand
assimilate information
Students need to assimilate new concepts.
b
: to take in and utilize as nourishment : to absorb into the system
The body assimilates digested food.
2
a
: to absorb into the cultural tradition of a population or group
b
: to make similar
… the only faculty that seems to assimilate man to the immortal gods.Joseph Conrad
c
phonetics : to alter by the process of assimilation (see assimilation sense 3)
3

intransitive verb

: to be taken in or absorbed : to become assimilated
Food assimilates better if taken slowly.Francis Cutler Marshall
assimilator noun
What prepositions are used with assimilate?: Usage Guide

When assimilate is followed by a preposition, transitive senses 2a and 2b commonly take to and into and less frequently with; sense 2c regularly takes to; sense 3 most often takes to and sometimes with. The most frequent prepositions used with the intransitive sense are to and into.

assimilate

2 of 2

noun

as·​sim·​i·​late ə-ˈsi-mə-lət How to pronounce assimilate (audio) -ˌlāt How to pronounce assimilate (audio)
: something that is assimilated

Did you know?

Linguistic assimilation?

There are a handful of words in English that are examples of themselves, representatives of the very things that they describe. One such word is sesquipedalian ("having many syllables" or "characterized by the use of long words"). Another example, in a slightly less obvious fashion, is assimilate. When used as a technical word to describe a certain process of language change, assimilate refers to the habit that some sounds have of becoming more like the sounds that are close to them in a word (see assimilation, sense 3). For instance, the original spelling of immovable in English was inmovable, and over time the n began to sound more like its neighboring m, to the point that it actually became that letter.

Something similar occurred before assimilate was a word in English. Assimilate comes from the Latin prefix ad- (meaning "to, towards") and similis ("similar"). Over time the d of the prefix ad- assimilated itself with the s of similis.

Examples of assimilate in a Sentence

Verb Over time, most of the inhabitants of the "Little Italies" … assimilated rapidly to the society … Stephan Thernstrom, Times Literary Supplement, 26 May 2000
Those groups were eagerly assimilating into the larger culture and rejecting their own cuisine … Corby Kummer, New York Times Book Review, 16 Aug. 1998
The mistaken attempts to assimilate Lindner's paintings into the Pop Art movement in the 1960s … Hilton Kramer, Arts & Antiques, January 1997
Children need to assimilate new ideas. There was a lot of information to assimilate at school. Schools were used to assimilate the children of immigrants. They found it hard to assimilate to American society. Many of these religious traditions have been assimilated into the culture.
Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Growing up in a biracial household in a small town in Washington, her Filipino mother dissuaded her from learning Tagalog and their traditions, hoping her daughter would assimilate better in America. Laura Sirikul, Variety, 4 May 2024 Jennifer Kang said some SoCal Asians fail to recognize that other Asian Americans in predominantly white areas feel pressure to assimilate and fit in with their white peers. Daysia Tolentino, NBC News, 29 Apr. 2024 Still others lament France’s difficulty in assimilating immigrants. Stephen Kotkin, Foreign Affairs, 18 Apr. 2024 That 2021 discovery prompted U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native cabinet member in American history, to launch a full review of this country’s own legacy of Native American boarding schools, which forcefully assimilated Indigenous children and stripped them of their culture. Elizabeth Hernandez, The Denver Post, 14 Apr. 2024 His parents were part of an aspiring class: devoted subjects of the metropole who had worked hard to assimilate and leave behind the island’s history of slavery, certainly not eager to rebel. Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic, 28 Mar. 2024 Many of the missing and murdered Indigenous people had been through Canada’s fraught foster-care system, or had done stints in residential schools, boarding schools aimed at assimilating Native children. Rachel Monroe, The New Yorker, 1 Feb. 2024 The chilling line came from a 1902 letter written by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to a school superintendent in California about the need to assimilate Native students returning home from boarding schools. Jillian Steinhauer, New York Times, 13 Apr. 2024 Watching two generations of women try to assimilate at different stages in their lives is exciting and amusing. Siddhant Adlakha, Variety, 10 Mar. 2024
Noun
Either assimilate, leave voluntarily, or be deported. Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review, 6 Nov. 2023 The more advanced kids in the class have quietly watched Eflin assimilate. Gabe Lacques, USA TODAY, 5 Apr. 2023 With deregulation in the 1980s, the focus of the training shifted to helping women and people of color assimilate into existing corporate cultures. Glenn Llopis, Forbes, 26 June 2021 Now, the pressure is on resident advisers and others to help the Class of 2023 assimilate. Nick Anderson, Washington Post, 25 Aug. 2019 According to Sessions, a good immigrant assimilates. Jeneé Osterheldt, kansascity, 6 Sep. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'assimilate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

Middle English assimilaten "to make similar," borrowed from Medieval Latin assimilāre, assimulāre "to make similar, digest, compare," going back to Latin, "to pretend, feign, assume the likeness of, cause to resemble, imitate, portray, liken (to)," from as- as- + similāre "to pretend, assume the appearance of by one's conduct, imitate" — more at simulate

Noun

derivative of assimilate entry 1

First Known Use

Verb

1671, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1b

Noun

1935, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of assimilate was in 1671

Dictionary Entries Near assimilate

Cite this Entry

“Assimilate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/assimilate. Accessed 21 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

assimilate

verb
as·​sim·​i·​late
ə-ˈsim-ə-ˌlāt
assimilated; assimilating
: to take something in and make it part of the thing it has joined

Medical Definition

assimilate

1 of 2 verb
as·​sim·​i·​late ə-ˈsim-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce assimilate (audio)
assimilated; assimilating

transitive verb

1
: to take in and utilize as nourishment : absorb into the system
2
: to absorb into the cultural tradition of a population or group
the community assimilated many immigrants

intransitive verb

1
: to become absorbed or incorporated into the system
some foods assimilate more readily than others
2
: to become culturally assimilated

assimilate

2 of 2 noun
as·​sim·​i·​late -lət, -ˌlāt How to pronounce assimilate (audio)
: something that is assimilated

More from Merriam-Webster on assimilate

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!