par·​ti·​ci·​ple | \ ˈpär-tə-ˌsi-pəl How to pronounce participle (audio) , Britain also pär-ˈti-si-pəl, pər-, pə- \

Definition of participle

: a word having the characteristics of both verb and adjective especially : an English verbal form that has the function of an adjective and at the same time shows such verbal features as tense and voice and capacity to take an object In "the finished product," the word "finished" is a participle formed from the verb "finish."

Grammar and Participle

English verbs can take several basic forms, which we call their principal parts: the infinitive (move, speak, etc.), the past tense (moved, spoke), the past participle (moved, spoken), and the present participle (moving, speaking). The participles are words that "take part" in two different word classes: that is, they are verb forms that can also act like adjectives ("the spoken word," "a moving experience"). A grammatical error called a dangling participle occurs when a clause begins with a participle that doesn't modify the subject; in the sentence "Climbing the mountain, the cabin came in view," for example, climbing is a dangling participle since it doesn't modify cabin. When we revise the sentence to "Climbing the mountain, the hikers spied a cabin," the participle climbing modifies the subject hikers and is therefore no longer dangling.

Examples of participle in a Sentence

In the phrases “the finishing touches” and “the finished product,” “finishing” and “finished” are participles formed from the verb “finish.”
Recent Examples on the Web To compound matters, Ball’s prose is relentlessly truncated: short declarative sentences that leave the reader longing for a subordinate clause, a compound sentence, or even a dangling participle. David Holahan, USA TODAY, 2 Aug. 2020 One explanation is that, like the dangling participle, the split infinitive has a catchy name, making the rule easy to pass on. The Economist, 26 Apr. 2018 Got that?** A common hyphenated compound follows the pattern adjective-noun noun or adjective-participle noun. John E. Mcintyre,, 27 Aug. 2017 The word traces back to the Middle English and Old French for ‘‘exit,’’ and before that to the feminine past participle (issir) of the Latin exire, meaning to ‘‘go out’’ or ‘ Carina Chocano, New York Times, 18 July 2017 The rolling parade of exclamation points and dangling participles might have offended some onlookers. Doug Maccash,, 10 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'participle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of participle

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for participle

Middle English, from Anglo-French, modification of Latin participium, from particip-, particeps

Learn More About participle

Time Traveler for participle

Time Traveler

The first known use of participle was in the 14th century

See more words from the same century

Dictionary Entries Near participle




See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for participle

Cite this Entry

“Participle.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for participle


par·​ti·​ci·​ple | \ ˈpär-tə-ˌsi-pəl How to pronounce participle (audio) \

Kids Definition of participle

: a form of a verb that is used to indicate a past or ongoing action and that can be used like an adjective The word "smiling" in "the smiling child" is a participle.

More from Merriam-Webster on participle

Nglish: Translation of participle for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of participle for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Color

  • a light greenish blue color
  • Name that color:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!