penetrate

verb
pen·​e·​trate | \ˈpe-nə-ˌtrāt \
penetrated; penetrating

Definition of penetrate 

transitive verb

1a : to pass into or through this route … penetrates the leading resort and lake areasAmerican 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. Porritt

b : 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

intransitive verb

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. Smith

b : 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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for penetrate

Synonyms

access, enter, pierce

Antonyms

depart, exit, leave

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Choose the Right Synonym for penetrate

enter, penetrate, pierce, probe mean to make way into something. enter is the most general of these and may imply either going in or forcing a way in. entered the city in triumph penetrate carries a strong implication of an impelling force or compelling power that achieves entrance. the enemy penetrated the fortress pierce means an entering or cutting through with a sharp pointed instrument. pierced the boil with a lancet probe implies penetration to investigate or explore something hidden from sight or knowledge. probed the depths of the sea

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The service called for a larger, heavier round that could penetrate current and future body armors, but at the time, the service was kind of elusive about what exactly that caliber would be. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "The U.S. Army Chose a New Bullet for Its New Rifles," 9 Oct. 2018 But what’s of concern is the higher-energy, shorter-wave radiation, like X-rays, that can penetrate and disrupt living cells, sometimes causing cancer. Ellen Knickmeyer, The Seattle Times, "APNewsBreak: EPA says a little radiation may be healthy," 2 Oct. 2018 In March, researchers announced in the journal Chem that hair could be colored by coating it in graphene rather than using ammonia or other chemicals that penetrate and damage your lovely locks. Gemma Tarlach, Discover Magazine, "20 Things You Didn't Know About ... Graphene," 13 Aug. 2018 This employs long-wavelength light to penetrate into and scatter from biological tissues, building up a three-dimensional picture of that tissue. The Economist, "The eye's structure holds information about the health of the mind," 28 June 2018 Where soils are water-resistant, try soil aeration to punch holes in the ground that can help moisture penetrate the soil and encourage a deeper root system. Tom Maccubbin, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Secrets to sunflower success," 2 June 2018 The Islamic world was suddenly something that needed to be penetrated and understood. Suzy Hansen, New York Times, "Aggro-Texting From the Syrian Jihad," 4 May 2018 That loose structure allows the heat to penetrate the pieces and get the bread get super crispy. Alex Delany, Bon Appetit, "How to Make Croutons and Put Them on EVERYTHING," 23 Apr. 2018 In 2015 and 2016, Russian intelligence services hacked into the DNC's computers, penetrated its phone systems, and exfiltrated tens of thousands of documents and emails. Kathryn Watson, CBS News, "DNC files lawsuit against Russia, Trump campaign, WikiLeaks," 20 Apr. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of penetrate

circa 1530, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for penetrate

Latin penetratus, past participle of penetrare, from penitus deep within, far; akin to Latin penus provisions

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Statistics for penetrate

Last Updated

7 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for penetrate

The first known use of penetrate was circa 1530

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More Definitions for penetrate

penetrate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of penetrate

: 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

verb
pen·​e·​trate | \ˈpe-nə-ˌtrāt \
penetrated; penetrating

Kids Definition of penetrate

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.

penetrate

verb
pen·​e·​trate | \ˈpen-ə-ˌtrāt \
penetrated; penetrating

Medical Definition of penetrate 

transitive verb

1 : 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

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Comments on penetrate

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