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

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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

Eco-friendliness: Concrete is intended to be a solid surface that nothing can penetrate — including water, Macfarlane says. Daniel Bortz, Washington Post, "The pros and cons of 6 driveway materials," 3 July 2019 To count the lakes, the researchers looked for the unique signature of liquid water in more than two decades’ worth of ice-penetrating radar data collected by NASA aircraft during flyovers of the Greenland Ice Sheet. NBC News, "Dozens of lakes discovered deep under the Greenland Ice Sheet," 29 June 2019 On that voyage, the moon was our stalker, following us the entire way, appearing each night over our shoulders, penetrating this oceanic black. Stanley Stewart, Condé Nast Traveler, "Exploring Polynesia's Islands by Cruise," 28 June 2019 This is not the first time there have been reports that undercover operatives penetrated TSA checkpoints. Ashley Halsey Iii, The Denver Post, "Hundreds of TSA workers being diverted from airports to southern border," 25 June 2019 One of the bullets penetrated the walls, landing about a foot from a 1-year-old baby, Dyer told the Bee. Kristin Lam, USA TODAY, "'Pray for baby Fayth': 10-month-old girl shot in head after mom rejects suspected gunman at party, police say," 25 June 2019 Mariona, now 75 and slightly stooped, his once-penetrating gaze muted by thin-frame glasses, remembers that fight too. Kevin Baxter, latimes.com, "When soccer teams from El Salvador and Honduras met 50 years ago, it really was a war," 24 June 2019 Later that summer, Escobar was approached and shot six times by three strangers, the men chanting 'Goal!' with as each bullet penetrated their victim. SI.com, "50 of the Biggest Controversies in Football History," 21 June 2019 This call can be read as a case for liberal conservatism, but it can just as easily be seen as a penetrating description of our peculiar moment — a prescient warning that nihilism awaits all those who flee from life’s greatest questions. Sahil Handa, National Review, "Seeking a Way Out of Our Modern Malaise," 4 June 2019

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

6 Jul 2019

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 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

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Comments on penetrate

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