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

Keep scrolling for more

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


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Politicians have welcomed news of a regulatory crackdown on Libra, the global currency and payments initiative incubated at Facebook. Diego Zuluaga For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, "If Facebook doesn't launch Libra, someone else should," 23 Oct. 2019 And a rural enterprise program in local villages teaches small business skills, from marketing to finance, and incubates the most promising projects. Alex Postman, Condé Nast Traveler, "What I Learned in the Trenches of a Rhino Translocation," 9 Oct. 2019 Zac Petkanas, the director of rapid response for Clinton's 2016 campaign, said Democrats may have miscalculated four years ago in ignoring conspiracies that incubated on the fringes of the Internet. Matt Viser,, "Attacks by Trump and his allies on Joe Biden have Democrats worried about repeat of 2016," 24 Sep. 2019 And there are even more far-fetched dreams incubating. Brian Resnick, Vox, "Scientists are grappling with our biggest limitation in spaceflight: our own bodies," 18 July 2019 As before, their charity model will still involve incubating new initiatives that are either one-off projects or bigger programs that will eventually become standalone charities. Omid Scobie, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan "Very Excited" to Start Their Own Charitable Foundation," 20 June 2019 After being incubated, seven of those cells matured and were suitable for fertilization. Washington Post, "Scientists succeed in creating northern white rhino embryos," 12 Sep. 2019 The place is a toxic blend of those intent on incubating ISIS' ideology and those who want to leave their past behind. Arwa Damon And Tamara Qiblawi, CNN, "A forgotten camp in Syria could be the birthplace of ISIS' revenge generation," 12 Sep. 2019 Any storm can wash away beaches with incubating sea turtle nests, Bergman said. Tyler Treadway, USA TODAY, "Hurricane Dorian could wash sea turtle nests out to sea amid promising nesting season," 1 Sep. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about incubate

Statistics for incubate

Last Updated

17 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for incubate

The first known use of incubate was in 1641

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 engage in dissolute behavior

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!