pop·​u·​late | \ ˈpä-pyə-ˌlāt How to pronounce populate (audio) \
populated; populating

Definition of populate

transitive verb

1 : to have a place in : occupy, inhabit
2a : to furnish or provide with inhabitants : people
b : to provide with members

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Synonyms & Antonyms for populate


colonize, people, settle


depopulate, unpeople

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Examples of populate in a Sentence

Immigrants began to populate the area in the late 19th century. Strange creatures populate the ocean depths.

Recent Examples on the Web

For the indigenous Taíno and Carib people who populated the Caribbean islands in the pre-Columbian exchange years, the storms were part of the cycle of their seasons—feared, but expected. Tristram Korten, Smithsonian, "The Bahamas and the Caribbean Have Withstood Hurricanes for Centuries," 17 Sep. 2019 The city of San Diego’s legally binding climate action plan requires the number of people cycling to work in the city’s densely populated neighborhoods to increase from about 2 percent to 6 percent by next year, and then to 18 percent by 2035. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Officials tackling ‘missing links’ in Bayshore Bikeway, including Barrio Logan," 15 Sep. 2019 The many African-American artists working in this vein are also dismantling Western painting’s racial homogeneity, populating it as never before with images of black people. Roberta Smith, New York Times, "Amy Sherald’s Shining Second Act," 12 Sep. 2019 Sauerkraut, bourbon molasses and a plethora of other ingredients lend a hand in the construction of Red Top’s 10 entrees that populate a menu divided into two categories, hot dogs and sausages. Lindsey Mcclave, The Courier-Journal, "This Shelby Park restaurant is home to Louisville's best hot dog," 11 Sep. 2019 With so many critters populating Earth, how much of a dent can the commercial trade really make? Jani Actman, National Geographic, "Bug smuggling is big business," 5 Sep. 2019 Contrary to many wild animals that populate the world of fairy tales and fables, furry Bruin — with a few exceptions — appears as a good-natured, snuggly, and contented being. David James, Anchorage Daily News, "New book explores mankind’s fascination with bears, from Stone Age to 'Winnie the Pooh’," 31 Aug. 2019 The discovery basically means that early humans may not have populated North America via land. Leah Asmelash, CNN, "Idaho artifacts show humans came to North America via a water route, not land," 30 Aug. 2019 For example, it could be argued that the Earth, Mars and Jupiter have failed to clear the debris from their own orbits, given the numerous asteroids that still populate the region. NBC News, "Is Pluto a planet or a dwarf planet? NASA chief picks sides in emotional debate," 29 Aug. 2019

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

1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for populate

Medieval Latin populatus, past participle of populare to people, from Latin populus people

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Statistics for populate

Last Updated

14 Oct 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for populate

The first known use of populate was in 1578

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More Definitions for populate



English Language Learners Definition of populate

: to live in (a country, city, area, etc.) : to make up the population of (a place)


pop·​u·​late | \ ˈpä-pyə-ˌlāt How to pronounce populate (audio) \
populated; populating

Kids Definition of populate

1 : to live in : inhabit
2 to provide with inhabitants

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More from Merriam-Webster on populate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with populate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for populate

Spanish Central: Translation of populate

Nglish: Translation of populate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of populate for Arabic Speakers

Comments on populate

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


to fake an opponent out of position

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