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)

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


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

Definition of initiate (Entry 3 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

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Other Words from initiate


initiator \ i-​ˈni-​shē-​ˌā-​tər How to pronounce initiate (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

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Both renters and landlords can initiate the application process. Phillip Molnar, San Diego Union-Tribune, "San Diego’s rent relief program needs applicants. There’s still $50M for renters," 28 Apr. 2021 If the commission concludes that the president committed common crimes, the attorney general's office could initiate an investigation or file a complaint to the Supreme Court. Rodrigo Pedroso And Marcia Reverdosa, CNN, "Brazil's Bolsonaro faces government probe into his handling of Covid-19," 27 Apr. 2021 Such an agreement generally involves requiring a company to admit to wrongdoing, agree to initiate reforms, cooperate with prosecutors, pay a fine and promise not to commit additional crimes. Mark Gillispie, Star Tribune, "FirstEnergy in talks on deferred prosecution agreement," 23 Apr. 2021 If the state assembly did choose to initiate impeachment proceedings, New York’s law could present an obstacle for lawmakers. Jemima Mcevoy, Forbes, "NOW Joins 59 Legislators Calling For Cuomo’s Resignation," 11 Mar. 2021 The next step in the case is for the Louisiana Department of Heath to initiate civil commitment proceedings against Hambrick to keep him in the hospital. Matt Sledge,, "Bywater man who killed toddler is 'irrestorably' incompetent, judge agrees," 1 Feb. 2021 But Biden’s inauguration is less than two weeks away, leaving little time for the House to initiate impeachment proceedings and the Senate to hold a trial before Trump will be gone from the White House anyway. Tal Kopan,, "Pelosi’s Democrats want to remove Trump, but it’s easier said than done," 7 Jan. 2021 But in Indiana, only law enforcement can initiate that process in court. New York Times, "In Indianapolis Shooting, a Red Flag That Never Flew," 18 Apr. 2021 According to DeCruz, the arrival of the two SCA pilots at the bridge of the Ever Given would initiate a briefing with the captain. Brendan Crowley, Popular Mechanics, "Here’s the Minute-by-Minute Breakdown of the Ever Given’s Crash," 9 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The company is partnering with environmental conservation organization SeaLegacy as a founding member of the latter’s Good Ocean Project, an initiate that aims to reduce plastic waste in the ocean. Douglas Yu, Forbes, "From Side Hustle To A Driving Force In The Plant-Based Movement, KOS Is Moving On To Bigger Things," 26 Apr. 2021 Look up the email address or phone number on the official site and initiate contact yourself. Nerd Wallet, oregonlive, "Scam alert: Find a COVID vaccine, but avoid criminals," 16 Mar. 2021 The fun elements attached to the serious nature of peer-coaching outcomes will also enhance memory retention and initiate solution thinking. Expert Panel®, Forbes, "14 Effective Tactics For Coaches Running Peer-To-Peer Groups," 11 Mar. 2021 Early in the film, the enigmatic mind thief Cobb (played by DiCaprio) explains the sci-fi notion of building dream worlds to his latest initiate, an architect named Ariadne (Ellen Page). David Sims, The Atlantic, "How Inception Helped Turn Christopher Nolan Into Cinema’s Savior," 4 Aug. 2020 The project mostly caters to initiates, who can test its observations against their prior knowledge of Ferrante, but the authors themselves seem attracted to the role of the amateur. Katy Waldman, The New Yorker, "A New Book on Elena Ferrante Rethinks What Criticism Can Be," 6 Feb. 2020 On Election Day, Colorado voters will be asked to consider a ballot initiate directing Colorado Parks and Wildlife to import wolves from the north and turn them loose by 2023. Ben Long, Outdoor Life, "Colorado Braces for Wolves as Politics Clash with Wildlife Management," 13 Jan. 2020 The team could also self-initiate calls, show up in outreach worker’s role to connect a homeless person to services or act as a mental health worker, as dispatched through Multnomah County’s crisis line. oregonlive, "Homeless first responder team to be housed in Portland fire bureau under new proposal," 15 Nov. 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Also announced was a feature called Dynamic View, which automatically adjusts the layout of a Teams Meeting as attendees join, initiate video, or begin to speak or present. Patrick Moorhead, Forbes, "Microsoft’s Most Impactful Announcements At Ignite 2021," 4 Mar. 2021 Science during a crisis is difficult, and the scientific community responded in 2020 with an all-hands effort to design and initiate scores of trials on a moment’s notice. Maciej F. Boni, The Conversation, "Two gaps to fill for the 2021-2022 winter wave of COVID-19 cases," 3 Mar. 2021 If people feel physically distant, initiate conversations that allow everyone to come together. Tarot Astrologers,, "Daily horoscope for December 24, 2020," 24 Dec. 2020 Of the Heat’s wings, Dragic comes closest to matching the drive-and-kick game of Butler, as well as the ability to get to the rim and initiate contact. Ira Winderman,, "Winderman: 2020-21 might have to be an alternate reality for Heat | Commentary," 5 Dec. 2020 Under no conditions can the president direct the Supreme Court to take a case or have a case initiate litigation at the Supreme Court level. Alison Medley, Chron, "Can the president block ballots from being counted? Expert weighs in," 5 Nov. 2020 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

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


1811, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1537, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for initiate


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

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Time Traveler for initiate

Time Traveler

The first known use of initiate was in 1533

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Statistics for initiate

Last Updated

6 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Initiate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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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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