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

transitive verb

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


2 of 3


ini·​tiate i-ˈni-sh(ē-)ət How to pronounce initiate (audio)
: a person who is undergoing or has undergone an initiation
: a person who is instructed or adept in some special field


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ini·​tiate i-ˈni-sh(ē-)ət How to pronounce initiate (audio)
: initiated or properly admitted (as to membership or an office)
: instructed in some secret knowledge
obsolete : relating to an initiate
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

Example Sentences

Verb 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. Noun These secrets are known only to a small group of initiates.
Recent Examples on the Web
In a centralized exchange, customers deposit funds into an account and initiate trades by submitting a buy or sell order. Vivek Ramaswamy And Mark Lurie, WSJ, 27 Nov. 2022 How many 7-footers can grab rebounds, push the ball in transition and calmly initiate offense like a point guard? Chris Fedor, cleveland, 19 Nov. 2022 Berry also points out that the vibrational energy from the number 10 sequence urges you to push and initiate change with determination and drive. Ysolt Usigan, Woman's Day, 15 Nov. 2022 The Walt Disney Company is reportedly planning to cut jobs across the board and initiate a hiring freeze, according to a memo sent Friday from Disney CEO Bob Chapek. Justin Klawans, The Week, 12 Nov. 2022 Williams adjusted Paul's minutes and role as the Suns' primary ball handler, allowing Bridges and Johnson to also initiate the offense. Dana Scott, The Arizona Republic, 2 Nov. 2022 However, this option isn't limited only to larger U.S. banks, as many smaller banks can initiate IATs by partnering with larger banks that have correspondent banks in other countries—thus forming a global network. Dmitri Tyles, Forbes, 11 Oct. 2022 In both cases, because consumers initiate payment, banks aren’t legally required to reimburse consumers making claims of fraudulent activity. Ashley Belanger, Ars Technica, 5 Oct. 2022 Storms intensify so quickly now—with wind speed dramatically increasing in a matter of hours—that sometimes LUMCON must initiate its evacuation procedure before the storm tracks become clear. Boyce Upholt, WIRED, 19 Nov. 2022
Soon after that scene comes a different kind of rite: the Author witnesses her mother, an initiate into the Yoruba priesthood, being possessed by a spirit. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, 14 Nov. 2022 Italian-Afro-Brazilian, anthropologist and doctor of education sciences, scholar and initiate of African and Afro-descendant religions and spiritual philosophies. Vogue, 27 Oct. 2022 Huxley, like Pollan, presented himself with great skill not as an initiate of an esoteric drug cult but an ingenue, undergoing and relaying extraordinary experiences on behalf of the general reader. Lucy Jakub, The New York Review of Books, 3 Sep. 2021 Many governments around the world initiate programs, stimulating a rapid switch to electric transport with an objective to achieve their net-zero goals and fight climate change. Nastasya Savina, Forbes, 12 Aug. 2022 The funding will help the institute initiate contact with more language leaders from Oregon tribes and tribal partners throughout the Pacific Northwest, as well as the institute’s existing members. Mckayla Lee, oregonlive, 9 Aug. 2022 The process of initiation itself is a symbolic death and rebirth, as though the initiate becomes a new person. Robert Launay, The Conversation, 12 July 2022 After later attending a series of Vodou ceremonies in New York and Boston, Jefferson said that she felt called to become an initiate. Nadege Green, The Atlantic, 29 June 2022 This could limit the company’s ability to raise dividends or initiate buybacks, in a rising interest rate environment. Trefis Team, Forbes, 28 June 2022
Keep your knees straight and initiate from the ankle. Perri O. Blumberg, Men's Health, 3 May 2022 The contractor has been adding staff in preparation to re-initiate construction. Washington Post, 14 Apr. 2022 According to Watley, an expert instructor will present a presentation and initiate dialogue in a question-and-answer session. Eplunus Colvin, Arkansas Online, 30 Jan. 2022 This signal could also do something more — which is initiate idle fees for cars that are full or beyond the maximum charging time. Brad Templeton, Forbes, 3 Nov. 2021 Androgens are involved in the onset of puberty and initiate hair growth in the underarms and pubic areas. Emilia Benton,, 27 Sep. 2021 Dialectic will conduct a first-in-human phase 1 dose-escalation study and initiate phase 2 studies. Dallas News, 20 Aug. 2021 Attacks in Vienna and Dresden in the last year have shown that the group still has the capacity to inspire and initiate acts of ruthless terror abroad. Sirwan Barzani, CNN, 19 Aug. 2021 Families can pay thousands of dollars and initiate lawsuits, all based on reports that turn out to be flawed. New York Times, 8 July 2021 See More

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.

Word History



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

First Known Use


1533, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1811, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1537, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of initiate was in 1533

Dictionary Entries Near initiate

Cite this Entry

“Initiate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition


1 of 2 verb
ini·​ti·​ate in-ˈish-ē-ˌāt How to pronounce initiate (audio)
initiated; initiating
: to set going : begin
initiate a new policy
: to instruct in the basics of something : introduce
initiate tourists into the local customs
: to admit into membership by special ceremonies
initiator noun


2 of 2 noun
ini·​tiate in-ˈish-(ē-)ət How to pronounce initiate (audio)
: a person who is undergoing or has passed an initiation
: an expert in a special field

More from Merriam-Webster on initiate

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