em·​u·​late | \ˈem-yə-ˌlāt, -yü-\
emulated; emulating

Definition of emulate 

(Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1a : to strive to equal or excel

b : imitate especially : to imitate by means of an emulator

2 : to equal or approach equality with


em·​u·​late | \ˈem-yə-lət \

Definition of emulate (Entry 2 of 2)


: emulous sense 1b pricked on by a most emulate pride— William Shakespeare

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Did You Know?


If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, to paraphrase Charles C. Colton (circa 1780-1832), then past speakers of English clearly had a great admiration for the Latin language. The verb emulate joined the ranks of Latin-derived English terms in 1582. It comes from aemulus, a Latin term for rivaling or envious. Two related adjectives - emulate and emulous - appeared around the same time as the verb emulate. Both mean striving to emulate or sometimes jealous, but emulous is rare these days, and the adjective emulate is obsolete. The latter did have a brief moment of glory, however, when Shakespeare used it in Hamlet:

"Our last king,
Whose image even but now appear'd to us,
Was, as you know, by Fortinbras of Norway,
Thereto prick'd on by a most emulate pride,
Dar'd to the combat. . . ."

Examples of emulate in a Sentence


If you are talking to someone younger, do not condescend. If you are talking to someone older, back up feelings with facts and never be in such a rush to make your point that you forget the art of listening. And please, no one try to emulate the histrionic, discursive style of any talking heads you see on television. — William Norwich, Vogue, 9 Sept. 2008 Although some schools are postponing new projects because of the faltering economy, others are forging ahead with plans to emulate freshman programs that have long existed at some of the nation's oldest colleges. — Jeninne Lee-St. John, Time, 27 Oct. 2008 I started out emulating Chandler in that first book, maybe the first book and a half, because I was in my novitiate, and whenever I wasn't clear on what to do I would actively think about Chandler and what Marlow would have done. — Robert B. Parker et al., Colloquium on Crime, 1986 She grew up emulating her sports heroes. artists emulating the style of their teachers
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Cable distributors will only feel a tighter squeeze with HBO and Disney preparing to emulate Netflix’s end-run around them. David Z. Morris, Fortune, "Netflix Is Expected to Spend up to $13 Billion on Original Programming This Year," 8 July 2018 The Miers reference is telling, since those trying to derail Kavanaugh hope to emulate the successful 2005 conservative campaign to force her withdrawal by Bush, leading to the deeply satisfying-to-conservatives substitution of Samuel Alito. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Kavanaugh Remains SCOTUS Front-runner Despite Right-Wing Backlash," 5 July 2018 To create a robot that operates with perfect safety among people, the vehicles just might have to learn to emulate some of their worst qualities. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, "A Cruise-on-Cruise Crash Reveals the Hardest Thing About Self-Driving Tech," 3 July 2018 For every aristocratic youth excited to emulate the new fashions radiating from London, there was another whose first reaction was to stuff a mouse into a macaroni’s wig bag. George Prochnik, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 24 June 2018 The Wings have urged Mantha to emulate the play of James van Riemsdyk, a net-front presence who scored 36 goals last season for the Maple Leafs, and helping Mantha accomplish that is another part of Bylsma’s appeal. Helene St. James, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings should get needed help on power play from Dan Bylsma," 22 June 2018 Case in point is this much-ballyhooed heist thriller, based on a true story, about four young men who attempt to emulate their movie heroes by disguising themselves as old men and pulling off an audacious theft. Cary Darling, Houston Chronicle, "New movies: ‘Incredibles’ ‘Superfly’ return and ‘Tag’ for adults," 13 June 2018 The preferred harvesting method is clear-cutting in staggered blocks—an approach Canadian forestry researchers say emulates natural large-scale disturbances caused by fire, floods, and insects. Luc Forsyth, National Geographic, "For Cash and Pride, Replanting Canada's Forests by the Millions," 8 June 2018 There is little reason to think Trump would emulate Nixon in making a gracious exit. Jeet Heer, The New Republic, "Trump Won’t Hesitate to Tear It All Down," 28 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'emulate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of emulate


1582, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1602, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for emulate


borrowed from Latin aemulātus, past participle of aemulārī "to vie with, rival, imitate," derivative of aemulus "rivaling, emulous"


borrowed from Latin aemulātus — more at emulate entry 1

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Dictionary Entries near emulate


emu apple

emu bush





Statistics for emulate

Last Updated

5 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for emulate

The first known use of emulate was in 1582

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More Definitions for emulate



English Language Learners Definition of emulate

: to try to be like (someone or something you admire)


em·​u·​late | \ˈem-yə-ˌlāt \
emulated; emulating

Kids Definition of emulate

: to try hard to be like or do better than : imitate She grew up emulating her sports heroes.

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Comments on emulate

What made you want to look up emulate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to express warning or disapproval

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