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im·​bri·​cate ˈim-bri-kət How to pronounce imbricate (audio)
: lying lapped over each other in regular order
imbricate scales


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im·​bri·​cate ˈim-brə-ˌkāt How to pronounce imbricate (audio)
imbricated; imbricating

transitive verb

: overlap
especially : to overlap like roof tiles

Did you know?

The ancient Romans knew how to keep the interior of their villas dry when it rained. They covered their roofs with overlapping curved tiles so the "imber" (Latin for pelting rain or "rain shower") couldn't seep in. The tiles were, in effect, "rain tiles," so the Romans called them "imbrices" (singular "imbrex"). The verb for installing the tiles was "imbricare," and English speakers used its past participle - "imbricatus" - to create "imbricate," which was first used as adjective meaning "overlapping (like roof tiles)" and later became a verb meaning "to overlap."

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Virtuosity’s sentence-making is thickened, intricate, imbricated, often dazzling. Cynthia Ozick, New York Times, 14 May 2018 But in re-writing those real events, embedding a creative vision of the past in a contemporary fiction, novelists reveal how history is continually imbricated into the texture of our world. Josephine Livingstone, New Republic, 31 May 2017

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

Word History



Late Latin imbricatus, past participle of imbricare to cover with pantiles, from Latin imbric-, imbrex pantile, from imbr-, imber rain; akin to Greek ombros rain

First Known Use


circa 1610, in the meaning defined above


1784, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of imbricate was circa 1610


Dictionary Entries Near imbricate

Cite this Entry

“Imbricate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Mar. 2023.

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