Definition of penetrate
1a : to pass into or through this route … penetrates the leading resort and lake areas — American Guide Series: Minnesota Only a dirt road penetrates the rough, wooded terrain.b : to enter by overcoming resistance : pierce This bullet can penetrate armor.c : to gain entrance to an apartment that I now penetrated for the first time — Osbert Lancaster
2a : to see into or through their keen eyes can penetrate the water to a depth of … forty feet — L. K. Porrittb : to discover the inner contents or meaning of a scientific secret which will eventually be penetrated by other countries — Vera M. Dean
3 : to affect profoundly with feeling men may still be penetrated with awe by the divine righteousness — R. W. Dale
4 : to diffuse through or into the cold began to penetrate his bones — E. K. Gann
1a : to pass, extend, pierce, or diffuse into or through something fishes … which enter tidal rivers and penetrate almost to fresh water — J. L. B. Smithb : to pierce something with the eye or mind strained his eyes to penetrate beyond the thick cloud of dust insight that penetrates to the very heart of some … problem — W. F. Hambly
2 : to affect deeply the senses or feelings the suggestion might penetrate deeply enough … to make her a good deal more wary — H. A. Overstreet
Examples of penetrate in a Sentence
These bullets can penetrate armor.
radiation penetrating the Earth's atmosphere
The bullet failed to penetrate.
The heat penetrated through the wall.
The roots of these plants have been known to penetrate to a depth of more than 15 feet.
My car's headlights couldn't penetrate the dense fog.
Recent Examples of penetrate from the Web
The back line was tough to penetrate but when Sky Blue got its chances, Franch put on a show of strength and athleticism.
Air Force officials worry increasingly about the Minuteman’s ability to penetrate adversaries’ future missile defense systems.
Drums, percussion and bass join in, twin lead guitars launch over the top and an enormous driving rhythm floods the room, penetrating me to the bone.
The X-rays from neutron stars do not penetrate Earth's atmosphere, so an instrument designed specifically to observe them from space will give us a better picture of these mysterious objects than ever before.
And just the historical practices of the Russians, who typically, almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.
Mr. Brzezinski, a descendant of Polish aristocrats (his name is pronounced Z-BIG-nyehv breh-ZHIHN-skee), was a severe, even intimidating figure, with penetrating eyes and a strong Polish accent.
For example, start out with a butt plug while being vaginally penetrated [by a partner].
The bat is capable of penetrating solid objects, which, of course, is patently absurd.
These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'penetrate'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.
Origin and Etymology of penetrate
Latin penetratus, past participle of penetrare, from penitus deep within, far; akin to Latin penus provisions
First Known Use: circa 1530
Synonym Discussion of penetrate
PENETRATE Defined for English Language Learners
Definition of penetrate for English Language Learners
: to go through or into something
: to see or show the way through (something)
: to succeed in becoming part of (an organization, a community, etc.)
PENETRATE Defined for Kids
Definition of penetrate for Students
1 : to pass into or through A nail penetrated the tire. But his voice was not strong enough to penetrate the thick wall. — E. B. White, Stuart Little
2 : to see into or through My eyes couldn't penetrate the darkness.
Medical Definition of penetrate
transitive verb: to pass into or through enzymes that help the sperm penetrate the zona pellucida—Anna Maria Gillis
2: to insert the penis into the vagina of in copulation
intransitive verb: to pass, extend, pierce, or diffuse into or through something penetrating percutaneous nephroscopy or ureteroscopy—R. A. Riehle et al
Seen and Heard
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