in·​ter·​po·​late in-ˈtər-pə-ˌlāt How to pronounce interpolate (audio)
interpolated; interpolating

transitive verb

: to alter or corrupt (something, such as a text) by inserting new or foreign matter
: to insert (words) into a text or into a conversation
: to insert between other things or parts : intercalate
: to estimate values of (data or a function) between two known values

intransitive verb

: to make insertions (as of estimated values)
interpolative adjective
interpolator noun

Did you know?

When Henry Cockeram put interpolate in his 1623 The English Dictionary; or, An Interpreter of Hard English Words he defined it in a way we no longer use: “to polish.” Cockeram’s definition ties the word very closely to its Latin root, polire, “to polish,” but the English word has a more direct source in Latin interpolare, meaning “to refurbish or alter,” or “to alter or corrupt something by inserting new or foreign matter.” This latter meaning persists in our English word today, though modern use of interpolate usually simply suggests the insertion of something into an existing text, work, etc., as in “she interpolated her own commentary into the report.” Musical elements can be interpolated too, as when an artist inserts a melody, lyric, etc., from one song into another without directly sampling. For example, the Beatles interpolated part of their early hit “She Loves You” into the closing moments of their later hit “All You Need Is Love.” In mathematical contexts, to interpolate is to estimate the values of data or a function between two known values.

Choose the Right Synonym for interpolate

introduce, insert, insinuate, interpolate, intercalate, interpose, interject mean to put between or among others.

introduce is a general term for bringing or placing a thing or person into a group or body already in existence.

introduced a new topic into the conversation

insert implies putting into a fixed or open space between or among.

inserted a clause in the contract

insinuate implies introducing gradually or by gentle pressure.

insinuated himself into the group

interpolate applies to the inserting of something extraneous or spurious.

interpolated her own comments into the report

intercalate suggests an intrusive inserting of something in an existing series or sequence.

new chapters intercalated with the old

interpose suggests inserting an obstruction or cause of delay.

interpose barriers to communication

interject implies an abrupt or forced introduction.

interjected a question

Examples of interpolate in a Sentence

He smoothly interpolates fragments from other songs into his own. He interpolated a very critical comment in the discussion.
Recent Examples on the Web Meanwhile, some of the older tracks that Beyoncé either sampled or interpolated on Cowboy Carter also had fans searching for source material on streaming services. Jason Lipshutz, Billboard, 3 Apr. 2024 Instead, scenic designer Riccardo Hernandez and costume designer Paloma Young found inspiration everywhere from the social and cultural movements of Lempicka’s lifetime to the ways in which Madonna interpolated Lempicka’s paintings into her own work. Maureen Lee Lenker,, 14 Mar. 2024 Musgraves is surely the only artist, country or otherwise, who is making records eclectic enough to crib ancient Scottish folk melodies on one song and interpolate a hook from rapper JID on the next. Jonathan Bernstein, Rolling Stone, 1 Mar. 2024 Block model grades within the wireframe models were interpolated by inverse distance cubed (ID3). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 28 Feb. 2024 Such allegations are nothing new for West, who has been repeatedly sued for illegally sampling or interpolating in his tracks. Bill Donahue, Billboard, 27 Feb. 2024 It has also been covered by Rasputina, Deana Carter, and interpolated by Irish comedian Brendan Grace in 1975. Vulture, 25 Jan. 2024 This reliance on sampling and interpolating older songs on Pink Friday 2 will not come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the Hot 100 in recent years. Kristin Robinson, Billboard, 12 Dec. 2023 Its intensely first-person take on the experience of war is no less potent for interpolating elements of poetry and nostalgia. Dennis Harvey, Variety, 13 Nov. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'interpolate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin interpolatus, past participle of interpolare to refurbish, alter, interpolate, from inter- + -polare (from polire to polish)

First Known Use

1612, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of interpolate was in 1612


Dictionary Entries Near interpolate

Cite this Entry

“Interpolate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


in·​ter·​po·​late in-ˈtər-pə-ˌlāt How to pronounce interpolate (audio)
interpolated; interpolating
: to alter (as a text) by inserting new matter
: to insert between other things or parts
interpolation noun
interpolative adjective
interpolator noun

More from Merriam-Webster on interpolate

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