verb in·oc·u·late \i-ˈnä-kyə-ˌlāt\

Definition of inoculate




  1. transitive verb
  2. 1a :  to introduce a microorganism into <inoculate mice with anthrax> <beans inoculated with nitrogen-fixing bacteria>b :  to introduce (as a microorganism) into a suitable situation for growthc :  to introduce immunologically active material (as an antibody or antigen) into especially in order to treat or prevent a disease <inoculate children against diphtheria>

  3. 2 :  to introduce something into the mind of

  4. 3 :  to protect as if by inoculation


play \i-ˈnä-kyə-ˌlā-tiv\ adjective


play \i-ˈnä-kyə-ˌlā-tər\ noun

Examples of inoculate in a sentence

  1. <inoculated them with the idea that the individual can always make a difference in this world>

Did You Know?

If you think you see a connection between "inoculate" and "ocular" ("of or relating to the eye"), you are not mistaken - both words look back to "oculus," the Latin word for "eye." But what does the eye have to do with inoculation? Our answer lies in the original use in English of "inoculate" in Middle English: "to insert a bud in a plant." Latin oculus was sometimes applied to things that were seen to resemble eyes, and one such thing was the bud of a plant. "Inoculate" was later applied to other forms of engrafting or implanting, including the introduction of vaccines as a preventative against disease.

Origin and Etymology of inoculate

Middle English, to insert a bud in a plant, from Latin inoculatus, past participle of inoculare, from in- + oculus eye, bud — more at eye

First Known Use: 1721

Synonym Discussion of inoculate

infuse, suffuse, imbue, ingrain, inoculate, leaven mean to introduce one thing into another so as to affect it throughout. infuse implies a pouring in of something that gives new life or significance <new members infused enthusiasm into the club>. suffuse implies a spreading through of something that gives an unusual color or quality <a room suffused with light>. imbue implies the introduction of a quality that fills and permeates the whole being <imbue students with intellectual curiosity>. ingrain, used only in the passive or past participle, suggests the deep implanting of a quality or trait <clung to ingrained habits>. inoculate implies an imbuing or implanting with a germinal idea and often suggests stealth or subtlety <an electorate inoculated with dangerous ideas>. leaven implies introducing something that enlivens, tempers, or markedly alters the total quality <a serious play leavened with comic moments>.

Other Microbiology Terms

INOCULATE Defined for English Language Learners


verb in·oc·u·late \i-ˈnä-kyə-ˌlāt\

Definition of inoculate for English Language Learners

  • medical : to give (a person or animal) a weakened form of a disease in order to prevent infection by the disease

INOCULATE Defined for Kids


verb in·oc·u·late \i-ˈnä-kyə-ˌlāt\

Definition of inoculate for Students



  1. :  to inject a material (as a vaccine) into to protect against or treat a disease

History for inoculate

Similar to the way that we use “eye” for the undeveloped bud on a potato, the Romans used the Latin word oculus, “eye,” to mean “bud of a plant.” Having learned that the oculus or bud from one plant can be grafted onto another, the Romans derived the verb inoculare from oculus to refer to the process of grafting. English borrowed this verb as inoculate with the same meaning. Introducing a small amount of material to make a person immune to a disease is like implanting a bud, so the verb inoculate was also used for this procedure.

Medical Dictionary


verb in·oc·u·late \in-ˈäk-yə-ˌlāt\

Medical Definition of inoculate




  1. 1

  2. transitive verb

  3. :  to communicate a disease to (an organism) by inserting its causative agent into the body <12 mice inoculated with anthrax>

  4. 2a:  to introduce microorganisms or viruses onto or into (an organism, substrate, or culture medium) <inoculated a rat with bacteria>b:  to introduce (as a microorganism or antiserum) into an organism or onto a culture medium <inoculate a pure culture of bacteria into a healthy host>

  5. 3:  to introduce immunologically active material (as an antibody or antigen) into especially in order to treat or prevent a disease <inoculate children against diphtheria>

  6. intransitive verb

  7. :  to introduce microorganisms, vaccines, or sera by inoculation

Seen and Heard

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


sparing in use of food or drink

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