ini·​ti·​ate | \ i-ˈni-shē-ˌāt How to pronounce initiate (audio) \
initiated; initiating

Definition of initiate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to cause or facilitate the beginning of : set going initiate a program of reform enzymes that initiate fermentation
2 : to induct into membership by or as if by special rites
3 : to instruct in the rudiments or principles of something : introduce


ini·​tiate | \ i-ˈni-sh(ē-)ət How to pronounce initiate (audio) \

Definition of initiate (Entry 2 of 3)

1a : initiated or properly admitted (as to membership or an office)
b : instructed in some secret knowledge
2 obsolete : relating to an initiate


ini·​tiate | \ i-ˈni-sh(ē-)ət How to pronounce initiate (audio) \

Definition of initiate (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : a person who is undergoing or has undergone an initiation
2 : a person who is instructed or adept in some special field

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Other Words from initiate


initiator \ i-​ˈni-​shē-​ˌā-​tər How to pronounce initiator (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for initiate


begin, commence, start, initiate, inaugurate, usher in mean to take the first step in a course, process, or operation. begin, start, and commence are often interchangeable. begin, opposed to end, is the most general. begin a trip began dancing start, opposed to stop, applies especially to first actions, steps, or stages. the work started slowly commence can be more formal or bookish than begin or start. commence firing commenced a conversation initiate implies taking a first step in a process or series that is to continue. initiated diplomatic contacts inaugurate suggests a beginning of some formality or notion of significance. the discovery of penicillin inaugurated a new era in medicine usher in is somewhat less weighty than inaugurate. ushered in a period of economic decline

Examples of initiate in a Sentence


Doctors have initiated a series of tests to determine the cause of the problem. The company initiated judicial proceedings against them. The new recruits will be initiated tomorrow night. He was initiated into a secret society.


These secrets are known only to a small group of initiates.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

No recalls have been initiated, and the agency said patients who take prescription versions of the drug, known as ranitidine, should consult with their doctors before stopping., "The Food and Drug Administration said Friday that it had detected low levels of a cancer-causing contaminant in samples of heartburn medicines containing the drug commonly known as Zantac. It was advising patients who take over-the-counter versions to consider switching to a different medication.," 14 Sep. 2019 If this development trend continues Potential Tropical Cyclone advisories will likely be initiated later today. Brett Clarkson,, "Forecasters warn Florida of potential for Tropical Storm Humberto this weekend," 12 Sep. 2019 The Department of Public Safety and the San Diego Police Department were immediately contacted, an investigation was initiated and a communication was sent to the College faculty. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Suspended University of San Diego professor identified as a renowned religious scholar," 12 Sep. 2019 Also under consideration, recalls could not be initiated during the legislative session and voters would have to be made aware of the costs of the recall. Krista Kafer, The Denver Post, "Kafer: It’s time to change the recall," 12 Sep. 2019 Gaza protest item, News of the Day, Sept. 7, A2 The regular weekend protests along the Israel-Gaza border were initiated in March 2018 by independent activists, not by Gaza’s Hamas rulers., "Corrections," 11 Sep. 2019 The illusions that Losey revealed weren’t just those to which Klein was initiated but those of France at large, a country that, at that very moment, was a mere simulacrum of itself. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "“Mr. Klein,” a Political Mystery of Mistaken Identity in Occupied Paris," 6 Sep. 2019 There are currently 4,987 satellites circling Earth, and so far, most collision avoidance procedures have been manually initiated. Jennifer Leman, Popular Mechanics, "Two ESA and SpaceX Satellites Almost Collided, Because There Are No Laws in Space," 3 Sep. 2019 Reviews were initiated by an official in the booth, or occasionally by field officials who wanted a second look at a play., "A History of Football in 100 Objects," 28 Aug. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The office will oversee the DWP’s internal audit and special investigations divisions, as well as initiate investigations, the mayor’s office said. Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times, "DWP, reeling from scandals and FBI raids, gets a new watchdog office," 13 Sep. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

When the spray was spent, the initiates formed two lines and crawled towards the dais. Sean Williams, Harper's magazine, "The Black Axe," 19 Aug. 2019 Like other ideological movements, Randism brims with a jargon of authenticity, tailored to reinforce the sense of belonging for young initiates. Alexander Sammon, The New Republic, "The Last of the Ayn Rand Acolytes," 14 Aug. 2019 The plan outline several initiates to help manage officers’ time and improve accountability. Jessica Anderson,, "Here are 5 main takeaways new crime plan from Baltimore Police commissioner Harrison’s," 18 July 2019 More mature initiates have the benefit of experience to guide them through an informed choice. Brennan Kilbane, WSJ, "You’re Not Too Old for a Tattoo," 25 July 2018 Like many initiates, Drotar, a landscaper and father of two who drives a pickup truck, spends a lot of time explaining the organization’s strange name. Jonathan M. Pitts,, "A rural Maryland chapter of the Odd Fellows society fights to save its 1850s building — and memories within," 25 Apr. 2018 Democrats say 3,200 incoming freshmen will be eligible for the initiate in the next fiscal year. Sandra Gomez-aceves,, "5 Areas Of Common Ground In Democratic, Republican Budget Proposals," 21 Apr. 2018 Journalist Frank Parlato, who first broke the story about the cult, told the New York Post that Mack came up with the idea of branding initiates' skin, near their groin area. Fox News, "'Smallville' actress Allison Mack arrested for alleged sex cult involvement, reports say," 20 Apr. 2018 Today, Kappa Alpha Theta has more than 145 chapters in the US and Canada, with nearly 220,000 initiates—including famous sisters such as Tory Burch, Sheryl Crow, Laura Bush, Melinda Gates, Dylan Lauren, and Cindy McCain. Nadine Jolie Courtney, Town & Country, "Which Sorority Was Actually the First?," 18 May 2017

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


1533, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1537, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1811, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for initiate


Late Latin initiatus, past participle of initiare, from Latin, to induct, from initium

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Statistics for initiate

Last Updated

17 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for initiate

The first known use of initiate was in 1533

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More Definitions for initiate



English Language Learners Definition of initiate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

formal : to cause the beginning of (something) : to start or begin (something)
: to formally accept (someone) as a member of a group or organization usually in a special ceremony
: to teach (someone) the basic facts or ideas about something



English Language Learners Definition of initiate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a person who is being formally accepted or who has been formally accepted as a member of a group or organization


ini·​ti·​ate | \ i-ˈni-shē-ˌāt How to pronounce initiate (audio) \
initiated; initiating

Kids Definition of initiate

1 : to set going : begin Scientists initiated an experiment.
2 : to admit into a club by special ceremonies
3 : to teach (someone) the basic facts about something She was initiated into the management of money.

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More from Merriam-Webster on initiate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with initiate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for initiate

Spanish Central: Translation of initiate

Nglish: Translation of initiate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of initiate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on initiate

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


concealment of treason or felony

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