pal·​pate ˈpal-ˌpāt How to pronounce palpate (audio)
palpated; palpating

transitive verb

: to examine by touch especially medically
palpation noun

Did you know?

Palpate has been part of the English language since the 19th century. It was probably coined from the preexisting noun form palpation, which itself traces back to the Latin verb palpare, meaning "to stroke or caress." Other descendants of palpare in English include palpable (an adjective that might describe a tense moment that can be "felt"), palpitate (what the heart does when it beats so hard that it can be felt through the chest), and the verb palp ("to touch or feel"). Even feel itself is a distant cousin of palpitate, as both words can be linked to the same ancient root word that gave Latin palpare.

Examples of palpate in a Sentence

The doctor palpated his ribs to see if there was any tenderness.
Recent Examples on the Web Kuang’s narrative palpates the nuances of cultural performance and writerly ethics, finally concluding that all authors steal for material anyway. Zoe Hu, Washington Post, 12 May 2023 Interpreting Results To determine whether dry needling is an effective treatment for you, your healthcare provider or therapist will palpate your trigger points and ask you about your level of pain, movement, and stiffness following your session. Brittany Ferri, Verywell Health, 17 Apr. 2023 Determined faces, arms and hands plunged into a heap of apricots, one euro per kilo, palpating and rejecting them, stuffing them in bags, in a joyous frenzy of gathering. Annie Ernaux, The New Yorker, 7 Mar. 2023 Teachers and students forget that the ability to palpate is not the same as the ability to feel. Seriously Science, Discover Magazine, 22 Apr. 2016 The doctor may also physically palpate the lymph nodes for any abnormal enlargement and order additional imaging, like PET or CT scans, to examine the spread of cancer to lymph nodes nearby. Seraphina Seow,, 23 June 2021 His friends are doctors, and one of them put King on a couch and palpated his stomach. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, 4 Mar. 2020 Afterward, each student allegedly came up to palpate her muscle. Janelle Griffith, NBC News, 27 Feb. 2020 For the spine, elaborate wooden racks would be used in conjunction with the surgeon’s body weight to palpate or stretch the patient. Jack Hartnell, Time, 30 Oct. 2019 See More

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

Word History


probably back-formation from palpation, from Latin palpation-, palpatio, from palpare

First Known Use

1837, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of palpate was in 1837


Dictionary Entries Near palpate

Cite this Entry

“Palpate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Medical Definition


pal·​pate ˈpal-ˌpāt How to pronounce palpate (audio)
palpated; palpating

transitive verb

: to examine by touch : explore by palpation

intransitive verb

: to use the technique of palpation

More from Merriam-Webster on palpate

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