penetrate

verb
pen·​e·​trate | \ ˈpe-nə-ˌtrāt How to pronounce penetrate (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for penetrate

Synonyms

Antonyms

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More
Recent Examples on the Web Not only does the infrared heat penetrate 2.5 inches into the skin to reach muscles and joints, but the special heat system also promotes detoxification, immune system support, and relief from arthritis, rheumatism, and fibromyalgia. Hillary Maglin, Travel + Leisure, "These Saunas Make the Perfect Addition to Your Home Gym or Spa," 25 June 2020 This insulating layer may mean that the cold can’t penetrate into the soil, potentially exacerbating the thawing of permafrost, which releases greenhouse gases that further warm the planet. Matt Simon, Wired, "Why the Arctic Is Warming So Fast, and Why That’s So Alarming," 23 June 2020 Instead of taking on the block to clog his gap and force the RB to bounce outside, Adams takes a justifiable risk in attempting to penetrate and make a play in the backfield instead. John Owning, Dallas News, "Film room: What kind of impact would a do-it-all safety like Jamal Adams have in the Cowboys’ defense?," 22 June 2020 The antennae themselves might still be small, Millett adds, but higher energy and frequency allows the waves to penetrate the tough ground. Sara Kiley Watson, Popular Science, "Scientists explored a buried Roman city without digging up an ounce of soil," 21 June 2020 These weapons are designed to travel more slowly than bullets, with blunt tips meant to cause pain but not intended to penetrate the body. USA Today, "'Less lethal' can still maim and kill: A visual guide to weapons police use on protesters," 20 June 2020 The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said that the hackers failed to penetrate election systems in the state. Sue Halpern, The New Yorker, "How Electronic Voting in Georgia Resulted in a Disenfranchising Debacle," 12 June 2020 These projectiles can break bones, penetrate skin, fracture the skull, explode eyeballs and damage internal organs. Anchorage Daily News, "A guide to the less-lethal weapons that law enforcement uses against protesters," 7 June 2020 The looting extended further south into Herald Square, where looters were even able to penetrate the iconic Macy's building, with officers dragging looters out of the store late into the night. Mark Morales And Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, "Looters were able to target high-end stores in New York due to an intelligence failure, NYPD official says," 6 June 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about penetrate

Time Traveler for penetrate

Time Traveler

The first known use of penetrate was circa 1530

See more words from the same year

Statistics for penetrate

Last Updated

29 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Penetrate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/penetrate. Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for penetrate

penetrate

verb
How to pronounce penetrate (audio)

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 How to pronounce penetrate (audio) \
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 How to pronounce penetrate (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on penetrate

What made you want to look up penetrate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A More Exception(al) Quiz

  • hot dog  hot dog  hot dog  hot dog cat
  • Which of the following words is not a synonym for ‘a young person’?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

TAKE THE QUIZ
Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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