in·​cu·​bate | \ ˈiŋ-kyə-ˌbāt How to pronounce incubate (audio) , 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 How to pronounce incubative (audio) , ˈin-​ \ adjective
incubatory \ ˈiŋ-​kyə-​bə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce incubatory (audio) , -​ˌbā-​tə-​rē , ˈin-​ \ adjective

Synonyms for incubate


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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 news network that incubated Donald Trump’s political rise and celebrated his presidency chronicled his impeachment on Wednesday. Sarah Ellison, Washington Post, "How the president’s favorite news network covered his impeachment," 19 Dec. 2019 Triplet Therapeutics, whose founders include Nessan Bermingham, a serial biotech entrepreneur and venture partner at Atlas Venture, quietly began incubating about a year ago at Alexandria LaunchLabs in Kendall Square. Jonathan Saltzman,, "Cambridge startup targeting Huntington’s officially debuts after raising $59m," 17 Dec. 2019 In addition to the detainees, tens of thousands of family members of Islamic State fighters are held in separate camps that are considered incubating grounds for the militant group, with guards barely able to keep order. Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times, "Notorious Islamic State ‘Beatles’ in U.S. custody, but can 11,000 other detainees be held securely?," 10 Oct. 2019 Bloom agreed to incubate six businesses under its subsidiary NUG. Otis R. Taylor Jr.,, "Oakland sought to help ‘equity’ cannabis companies. But they face uphill battle to compete," 19 Dec. 2019 In an Alphabetized world, the focus is on incubating companies that will one day become big businesses themselves. Wired, "Larry, Sergey, and the Mixed Legacy of Google-Turned-Alphabet," 5 Dec. 2019 The beauty and the challenges of incubating future generations is hard work. Jen Juneau,, "'Nervous' Hilaria Baldwin Goes to Therapy After Miscarriage and Tells Others 'You Are Worth It'," 21 Nov. 2019 In recent years, swarms of mosquitoes, incubated by warming temperatures, have driven many of the reindeer away from their regular route. New York Times, "Still the Undisputed Champs of Mammalian Migrations," 18 Nov. 2019 Boston, Greenidge reminds her readers, incubated the politics of Malcolm X and of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., not to mention the writers Pauline Hopkins and Dorothy West. Casey Cep, The New Yorker, "The Legacy of a Radical Black Newspaperman," 18 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for incubate

Time Traveler

The first known use of incubate was in 1641

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Statistics for incubate

Last Updated

13 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Incubate.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 26 January 2020.

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More Definitions for incubate


How to pronounce incubate (audio)

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


in·​cu·​bate | \ ˈiŋ-kyə-ˌbāt How to pronounce incubate (audio) \
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- How to pronounce incubate (audio) \
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).


to express in a more acceptable way

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