im·​bri·​cate | \ ˈim-bri-kət How to pronounce imbricate (audio) \

Definition of imbricate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: lying lapped over each other in regular order imbricate scales


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

Definition of imbricate (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: overlap especially : to overlap like roof tiles

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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."

Examples of imbricate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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.

First Known Use of imbricate


circa 1610, in the meaning defined above


1784, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for imbricate


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

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The first known use of imbricate was circa 1610

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imbricated snout beetle

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Cite this Entry

“Imbricate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Oct. 2021.

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