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

Now, using a combination of laser scanning and ground-penetrating radar, archeologists have made a complete map of the site. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Archaeologists map centuries of history beneath world’s oldest cathedral," 30 Nov. 2018 Musk's Boring Company digs tunnels for advanced transport systems and has advanced ground-penetrating radar. Kaitlyn Schallhorn, Fox News, "Thai soccer team rescue might need to happen sooner than expected, experts warn," 2 Oct. 2018 This subglacial lake, discovered by a ground-penetrating radar on the Mars Express spacecraft, is about 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) wide and perhaps no more than a meter deep. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Underground Lake of Liquid Water Detected on Mars," 25 July 2018 Lawmakers demonstrating basic platform literacy; anticipating the non-answers that tech CEOs have prepared for them; scripting more penetrating follow-up questions; coordinating avenues of attack with their fellow representatives. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How Congress missed another chance to hold big tech accountable," 12 Dec. 2018 And the deep-penetrating radiation has been shown in some small studies to alleviate pain, including muscle soreness and chronic back pain — which, in turn, may improve sleep quality. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "Kendall Jenner Received an Infrared Sauna for Her Birthday," 13 Nov. 2018 Your cleanser needs to be gentle so topical products can penetrate your skin, says Dr. Schultz. Leah Prinzivalli, Glamour, "How to Get Rid of a Pimple Fast: 12 Dos & Don'ts of Fighting Acne," 17 Jan. 2019 When a bed bug passes by, the spores attach to the external layer of fats on the bug’s exoskeleton, which the fungus can then penetrate. Rob Dunn, Discover Magazine, "Our Attempts to Eradicate Insects are Just Making them Resistant to Pesticides," 16 Nov. 2018 And for good reason: Studies have shown that infrared light waves can penetrate the skin up to 1.5 inches below the surface, and could generate a range of therapeutic effects. Emma Sarran Webster, Teen Vogue, "Kendall Jenner Received an Infrared Sauna for Her Birthday," 13 Nov. 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

11 May 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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