im·​bue im-ˈbyü How to pronounce imbue (audio)
imbued; imbuing

transitive verb

: endow sense 3
Spanish missions imbue the city with Old World charmScott Pendleton
: to permeate or influence as if by dyeing
the spirit that imbues the new constitution
: to tinge or dye deeply

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Imbue Has Old French Roots

Like its synonym infuse, imbue implies the introduction of one thing into another so as to affect it throughout. Someone's voice can be imbued with pride, for example, or a photograph might be imbued with a sense of melancholy. In the past imbue has also been used synonymously with imbrue, an obscure word meaning “to drench or stain,” but the two words are likely unrelated. Imbue comes from the Latin verb imbuere, meaning “to dye, wet, or moisten.” Imbrue has been traced back through Anglo-French and Old French to the Latin verb bibere, meaning “to drink.”

Choose the Right Synonym for imbue

infuse, suffuse, imbue, ingrain, inoculate, leaven mean to introduce one thing into another so as to affect it throughout.

infuse implies a pouring in of something that gives new life or significance.

new members infused enthusiasm into the club

suffuse implies a spreading through of something that gives an unusual color or quality.

a room suffused with light

imbue implies the introduction of a quality that fills and permeates the whole being.

imbue students with intellectual curiosity

ingrain, used only in the passive or past participle, suggests the deep implanting of a quality or trait.

clung to ingrained habits

inoculate implies an imbuing or implanting with a germinal idea and often suggests stealth or subtlety.

an electorate inoculated with dangerous ideas

leaven implies introducing something that enlivens, tempers, or markedly alters the total quality.

a serious play leavened with comic moments

Examples of imbue in a Sentence

A feeling of optimism imbues her works. her training at the school for the deaf imbued her with a sense of purpose that she had never known before
Recent Examples on the Web Where sitcom fathers have tended to be either impossibly perfect or buffoons, Flaherty imbued Harold Weir with comic dignity, no less dignified for being comic, nor comic for being dignified — an imperfect perfect father. Robert Lloyd, Los Angeles Times, 3 Apr. 2024 The play, under Oliver Butler’s astute direction, imbues the father-son relationship with greater psychological depth than the film. Rhoda Feng, Washington Post, 2 Apr. 2024 See all Example Sentences for imbue 

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

Word History


Latin imbuere

First Known Use

1555, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of imbue was in 1555


Dictionary Entries Near imbue

Cite this Entry

“Imbue.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


im·​bue im-ˈbyü How to pronounce imbue (audio)
imbued; imbuing
: to spread through or influence deeply as if by dyeing
imbued with a deep sense of loyalty
: to tinge or dye deeply
: endow sense 2
the new lighting imbues the room with warmth

More from Merriam-Webster on imbue

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