ex·​trap·​o·​late ik-ˈstra-pə-ˌlāt How to pronounce extrapolate (audio)
extrapolated; extrapolating

transitive verb

: to predict by projecting past experience or known data
extrapolate public sentiment on one issue from known public reaction on others
: to project, extend, or expand (known data or experience) into an area not known or experienced so as to arrive at a usually conjectural knowledge of the unknown area
extrapolates present trends to construct an image of the future
: to infer (values of a variable in an unobserved interval) from values within an already observed interval

intransitive verb

: to perform the act or process of extrapolating
extrapolation noun
extrapolative adjective
extrapolator noun

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The Many Uses of Extrapolate

Scientists worry about the greenhouse effect because they have extrapolated the rate of carbon-dioxide buildup and predicted that its effect on the atmosphere will become increasingly severe. On the basis of their extrapolations, they have urged governments and businesses to limit factory and automobile emissions. Notice that it's acceptable to speak of extrapolating existing data (to produce new data), extrapolating from existing data (to produce new data), or extrapolating new data (from existing data)—in other words, it isn't easy to use this word wrong.

Example Sentences

We can extrapolate the number of new students entering next year by looking at how many entered in previous years. With such a small study it is impossible to extrapolate accurately.
Recent Examples on the Web The story left readers to extrapolate their own conclusions about why this was so from the short, haunting observations of the room’s soft-spoken proprietor, Steven J. Orfield, of Orfield Laboratories. Caity Weaver, New York Times, 23 Nov. 2022 By measuring the murkiness, Schwartzman could extrapolate the number of microbes in the flask and construct a growth curve to estimate how rapidly the cells were dividing. Carrie Arnold, Quanta Magazine, 2 Nov. 2022 Sound leaves no trace in the fossil record, however, so researchers seeking to understand the evolutionary origins of vocalizations have to extrapolate backward using data from current species. Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American, 25 Oct. 2022 Pollsters can only extrapolate the turnout rates of previous years. Steven Tian, Fortune, 16 Nov. 2022 Markets reacted so strongly both because too many people expected higher inflation, and because many investors took the numbers as a reason to extrapolate to a future of declining inflation. James Mackintosh, WSJ, 16 Nov. 2022 For this research, the agency uses special intensive audits to look for noncompliance and then extrapolate. Richard Rubin, WSJ, 28 Oct. 2022 Some people can add new information and extrapolate a different outcome, and some people, emotionally, just can't. Carolyn Hax, Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2022 Recogni’s solution can also extrapolate its learning with daytime data to nighttime performance (Figure 2). Sabbir Rangwala, Forbes, 5 Oct. 2022 See More

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

Word History


Latin extra outside + English -polate (as in interpolate) — more at extra-

First Known Use

1874, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of extrapolate was in 1874

Dictionary Entries Near extrapolate

Cite this Entry

“Extrapolate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/extrapolate. Accessed 9 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


ex·​trap·​o·​late ik-ˈstrap-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce extrapolate (audio)
extrapolated; extrapolating
: to work out unknown facts from known facts
extrapolation noun
extrapolator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on extrapolate

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