per·​co·​late | \ ˈpər-kə-ˌlāt How to pronounce percolate (audio) , nonstandard -kyə- How to pronounce percolate (audio) \
percolated; percolating

Definition of percolate

transitive verb

1a : to cause (a solvent) to pass through a permeable substance (such as a powdered drug) especially for extracting a soluble constituent
b : to prepare (coffee) in a percolator
2 : to be diffused through : penetrate

intransitive verb

1 : to ooze or trickle through a permeable substance : seep
2a : to become percolated
b : to become lively or effervescent
3 : to spread gradually allow the sunlight to percolate into our rooms— Norman Douglas
4 : simmer sense 2a the feud had been percolating for a long time

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Other Words from percolate

percolation \ ˌpər-​kə-​ˈlā-​shən How to pronounce percolate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for percolate


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Did You Know?

Percolate comes from a Latin verb meaning "to put through a sieve". Something that percolates filters through something else, just as small particles pass through a sieve. Water is drawn downward through the soil, and this percolation usually cleans the water. A slow rain is ideal for percolating into the soil, since in a violent rainstorm most of it quickly runs off. For this reason, drip irrigation is the most effective and water-conserving form of irrigation. Percolation isn't always a physical process; awareness of an issue may percolate slowly into the minds of the public, just as Spanish words may gradually percolate into English, often starting in the Southwest.

Examples of percolate in a Sentence

Sunlight percolated down through the trees. Rumors percolated throughout the town. There is nothing like percolating coffee over an open campfire. Coffee was percolating on the stove.
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Recent Examples on the Web Rumors of a dangerous virus started to percolate among friends. Los Angeles Times, "Lifers: How the people who serve you survived the last year," 17 Mar. 2021 When New York was the pandemic's epicenter last year, Cuomo was widely hailed for his handling of the crisis even as questions began to percolate about COVID outbreaks in nursing homes. Jonathan Lemire And Marina Villeneuve, Star Tribune, "For Biden, questions about Cuomo grow harder to ignore," 17 Mar. 2021 The installation of the rain gardens will allow rainwater to percolate through the ground in a natural way to prevent sediment and other pollutants from running into the Chesapeake Bay, thus degrading the water quality. Allana Haynes,, "At bay: Baltimore County congregations link spirituality to watershed projects," 15 Mar. 2021 DeBrusk, a top-six winger, is a key factor in whether the 5-on-5 production begins to percolate. Kevin Paul Dupont,, "Approaching quarter mark of season, Bruins need to improve 5-on-5 scoring," 7 Feb. 2021 Meanwhile, as all of these preparations continue and anxieties percolate, one of the most prolific commentators about current events, Trump, has been left without a platform after Twitter barred him. Zachary Halaschak, Washington Examiner, "'Calm before the storm': Uneasy quiet descends on DC and Congress ahead of inauguration," 15 Jan. 2021 At the beginning of January, as the busy Lunar New Year travel season approached, concerns begin to percolate about a pneumonia-like virus thought to be linked to an animal market in Wuhan. Washington Post, "2020: The year of the virus," 31 Dec. 2020 Nonetheless, misleading stories that percolate less widely can still have an insidious influence. Rachel Lerman, Anchorage Daily News, "Vaccine hoaxes are rampant on social media. Here’s how to spot them.," 18 Dec. 2020 Every choice made during the museum’s century and a half—what to display, and how, and why—settled an in-house argument that can percolate anew, when confined to aesthetics, or that may run afoul of latter-day cultural and political realities. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The Metropolitan Museum at a Hundred and Fifty," 23 Nov. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'percolate.' 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 percolate

1626, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for percolate

Latin percolatus, past participle of percolare, from per- through + colare to sieve — more at per-, colander

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Time Traveler for percolate

Time Traveler

The first known use of percolate was in 1626

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Statistics for percolate

Last Updated

24 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Percolate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for percolate



English Language Learners Definition of percolate

: to pass slowly through something that has many small holes in it
: to spread slowly
: to make (coffee) in a special pot (called a percolator)


per·​co·​late | \ ˈpər-kə-ˌlāt How to pronounce percolate (audio) \
percolated; percolating

Kids Definition of percolate

1 : to trickle or cause to trickle through something porous : ooze Water percolated through sand.
2 : to prepare (coffee) by passing hot water through ground coffee beans again and again

Other Words from percolate

percolation \ ˌpər-​kə-​ˈlā-​shən \ noun
percolator \ -​ˌlā-​tər \ noun


per·​co·​late | \ ˈpər-kə-ˌlāt How to pronounce percolate (audio) \
percolated; percolating

Medical Definition of percolate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to cause (a solvent) to pass through a permeable substance (as a powdered drug) especially for extracting a soluble constituent
2 : to be diffused through

intransitive verb

1 : to ooze or trickle through a permeable substance
2 : to become percolated


per·​co·​late | \ -ˌlāt How to pronounce percolate (audio) , -lət How to pronounce percolate (audio) \

Medical Definition of percolate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a product of percolation

More from Merriam-Webster on percolate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for percolate

Nglish: Translation of percolate for Spanish Speakers

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