in·cu·bate | \ˈiŋ-kyə-ˌbāt, ˈin-\
incubated; incubating

Definition of incubate 

transitive verb

1a : to sit on (eggs) so as to hatch by the warmth of the body

b : to maintain (something, such as an embryo or a chemically active system) under conditions favorable for hatching, development, or reaction

2 : to cause or aid the development of incubate an idea

intransitive verb

1 : to sit on eggs

2 : to undergo incubation : develop

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Other Words from incubate

incubative \ˈiŋ-kyə-ˌbā-tiv, ˈin- \ adjective
incubatory \ˈiŋ-kyə-bə-ˌtȯr-ē, -ˌbā-tə-rē, ˈin- \ adjective

Examples of incubate in a Sentence

The female bird incubates the eggs. Researchers incubated the cells in the laboratory. The cultures must incubate for five more days. The virus will incubate in the body for several days before the patient experiences any symptoms.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The Tezos community, however, proved itself exactly the sort of self-orchestrating effort the platform was designed to incubate, even without recourse to its actual blockchain. Gideon Lewis-kraus, WIRED, "The Blockchain: A Love Story—And a Horror Story," 18 June 2018 Southgate has done a hell of a job changing the perception of England, incubating an exciting young side by helping them to play, for the most, without the suffocating inhibitions of fear and pressure., "Panic Stations: We Need to Talk About England's Knockout Record Before It Comes Home on July 15," 2 July 2018 While the focus tends to be on bigger national races and members of Congress, Parker stressed the importance of LGBTQ representation at the state level, because states incubate the most discriminatory bills. NBC News, "Only 0.1 percent of elected officials are LGBTQ, new report finds," 22 June 2018 Curlews, when incubating their eggs, are inconspicuous. Kevin Davenport, idahostatesman, "Why are curlews declining in Idaho? Turns out, humans are their most deadly predator.," 18 June 2018 The two incubated three eggs on top of the library in 2017. Genevieve Bookwalter,, "Pair of perennial peregrine falcons back atop Evanston Public Library; female sitting on four eggs," 17 Apr. 2018 Both parents take turns incubating the eggs, which typically come in pairs and take 16 to 19 days to hatch. Keith Williams, New York Times, "The Elusive City Squab," 23 May 2018 The flip side: often the USTA has put in years of work (and years of financing) to incubate careers. Jon Wertheim,, "Mailbag: Is Current Form or Past Slam Performance a Better Indicator of Success in Majors?," 27 June 2018 In July, leaders in Beijing announced a plan to incubate a local AI industry valued at about $150 billion by 2030, relying in no small part on government investment. Tony Romm And Drew Harwell,, "White House will host Amazon, Facebook, Ford and others to discuss artificial intelligence," 8 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'incubate.' 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 incubate

1641, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for incubate

Latin incubatus, past participle of incubare, from in- + cubare to lie

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Statistics for incubate

Last Updated

22 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for incubate

The first known use of incubate was in 1641

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More Definitions for incubate



English Language Learners Definition of incubate

of a bird : to sit on eggs so that they will be kept warm and will hatch

of an egg : to be kept warm before hatching

: to keep (something) in the proper conditions for development


in·cu·bate | \ˈiŋ-kyə-ˌbāt \
incubated; incubating

Kids Definition of incubate

1 : to sit upon eggs to hatch them by warmth

2 : to keep under conditions good for hatching or development


in·cu·bate | \ˈiŋ-kyə-ˌbāt, ˈin- \
incubated; incubating

Medical Definition of incubate 

transitive verb

1 : to maintain (as eggs, embryos of animals, or bacteria) under prescribed and usually controlled conditions favorable for hatching or development especially in an incubator

2 : to maintain (a chemically active system) under controlled conditions for the development of a reaction

intransitive verb

: to undergo incubation the cultures incubated for five days

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Comments on incubate

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


lying above or upon

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