precipitate

verb
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \ pri-ˈsi-pə-ˌtāt How to pronounce precipitate (audio) \
precipitated; precipitating

Definition of precipitate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a : to throw violently : hurl the quandaries into which the release of nuclear energy has precipitated mankind— A. B. Arons
b : to throw down
2 : to bring about especially abruptly precipitate a scandal that would end with his expulsion— John Cheever
3a : to cause to separate from solution or suspension
b : to cause (vapor) to condense and fall or deposit

intransitive verb

1a : to fall headlong
b : to fall or come suddenly into some condition
2 : to move or act with violent or unwise speed
3a : to separate from solution or suspension
b : to condense from a vapor and fall as rain or snow

precipitate

noun
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \ pri-ˈsi-pə-tət How to pronounce precipitate (audio) , -ˌtāt \

Definition of precipitate (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a substance separated from a solution or suspension by chemical or physical change usually as an insoluble amorphous or crystalline solid
2 : a product, result, or outcome of some process or action

precipitate

adjective
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \ pri-ˈsi-pə-tət How to pronounce precipitate (audio) \

Definition of precipitate (Entry 3 of 3)

1a : falling, flowing, or rushing with steep descent
2 : exhibiting violent or unwise speed

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Other Words from precipitate

Verb

precipitative \ pri-​ˈsi-​pə-​ˌtā-​tiv How to pronounce precipitative (audio) \ adjective
precipitator \ pri-​ˈsi-​pə-​ˌtā-​tər How to pronounce precipitator (audio) \ noun

Adjective

precipitately adverb
precipitateness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for precipitate

Adjective

precipitate, headlong, abrupt, impetuous, sudden mean showing undue haste or unexpectedness. precipitate stresses lack of due deliberation and implies prematureness of action. the army's precipitate withdrawal headlong stresses rashness and lack of forethought. a headlong flight from arrest abrupt stresses curtness and a lack of warning or ceremony. an abrupt refusal impetuous stresses extreme impatience or impulsiveness. an impetuous lover proposing marriage sudden stresses unexpectedness and sharpness or violence of action. flew into a sudden rage

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Adjective

Many people, including usage commentators, are insistent about keeping the adjectives "precipitate" and "precipitous" distinct. "Precipitate," they say, means "headlong" or "impetuous"; "precipitous" means only "steep." And, indeed, "precipitate" is used mostly in the "headlong" sense, whereas "precipitous" usually means "steep." But one shouldn't be too hasty about insisting on the distinction. The truth is that "precipitate" and "precipitous" have had a tendency to overlap for centuries. Lexicographer Samuel Johnson, in his dictionary of 1755, defined "precipitate" as "steeply falling," "headlong," and "hasty," while "precipitous" was "headlong; steep," and "hasty." Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary included much the same definitions. The words' etymologies overlap as well. Both ultimately come from Latin praeceps, which means "headlong."

Examples of precipitate in a Sentence

Verb When Achilles is informed by his mother, the sea-goddess Thetis, that vanquishing Hector on the battlefield will precipitate his own demise, he unhesitatingly opts for the gusto. — Mark Leyner, Time, 13 Nov. 2000 The vast room darkens. The videotape … begins on two identical screens set high above the nave. The soaring lyrics of LeeAnn Rimes's "How Do I Live (Without You)" precipitate a collective tension and welling, repressed tearfulness. — Jayne Anne Phillips, Harper's, November 1998 Her death precipitated a family crisis. The budget problem was precipitated by many unexpected costs. minerals that precipitate from seawater Noun Yet trained, and by nature inclined, to persevere through the stenches, messes, explosions and disasters of a laboratory, he fixed his gaze upon an unlikely precipitate: human resilience, a sort of radioactive trace element. — Richard Eder, New York Times Book Review, 16 June 2002 the exodus from the cities was an unexpected precipitate of the automobile, which effectively shrank distances the chemist filtered out the precipitate from the solution Adjective The precipitate decline in support for Aristide has probably less to do with Haiti's political crisis than with the continuous and unrelenting economic battering: the Haitian gourde, which a year ago was trading at 27 to the dollar, by late February was down to 55 to the dollar. — Peter Dailey, New York Review of Books, 27 Mar. 2002 Almost at once I began to remember why drive-ins went into such a precipitate decline. To begin with, it is not remotely comfortable to sit in a car to watch a movie. — Bill Bryson, I'm a Stranger Here Myself, 1999 Assuming that the offering goes ahead—and only a precipitate slide in the stock market will stop it—a big slice of Wall Street history will disappear. — John Cassidy, New Yorker, 8 Mar. 1999 the army's precipitate withdrawal from the field of battle
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Recent Examples on the Web: Verb This precipitated the resignation of a government minister and the prime minister’s chief of staff. The Economist, "Stories of an extraordinary world The prime minister and the murdered journalist: inside Malta, a nation on the brink," 13 Dec. 2019 This precipitated the resignation of a government minister and the prime minister’s chief of staff. Alexander Clapp, 1843, "The prime minister and the murdered journalist: inside Malta, a nation on the brink," 11 Dec. 2019 The mudslide precipitated an environmental awakening for the teenager. Emma Reynolds, CNN, "How a deadly mudslide inspired a teenager to protect his environment," 25 Nov. 2019 These events precipitated the demolition of the freeway and terminal, and the eventual construction of the Salesforce Transit Center and Park in their place. John Brant, Popular Mechanics, "It Was Supposed to Be the Safest Building in the World. Then It Cracked.," 25 Oct. 2019 His subsequent moving speech about the Globe’s productions and the outreach programs that make theater truly matter in San Diego precipitated exceptionally generous paddle-raise pledges totaling $319,750. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Making theater matter," 8 Oct. 2019 Gregg Popovich precipitated the shift, routinely resting Duncan, Parker and others in the second game of back-to-backs or at other grueling points of the marathon 82-game NBA season. Joe Freeman, oregonlive, "Bucking the trend: Portland Trail Blazers have no plans to rest stars Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum for ‘load management’," 4 Oct. 2019 The rift between Giscard and Mr. Chirac precipitated an epic rivalry between the two dominant figures on the political right — a rivalry that eventually benefited the French Socialists, who coalesced behind a single leader, Francois Mitterrand. Keith Richburg, Washington Post, "Jacques Chirac, flamboyant French president who opposed U.S. invasion of Iraq, dies at 86," 26 Sep. 2019 High collision rates on Highway 17 precipitated the formation of the Safe on 17 Task Force in 1999. Gary Richards, The Mercury News, "Highway 17 crashes remain on troubling rise," 22 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Although, the dusty precipitate may be melting away with the morning sun, the snow may have left a lasting impression on our local record books. Jared Boyd, AL.com, "How weird is snow in Mobile? Well, Friday night's snow set a record," 9 Dec. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective This is all to the good, and better than a precipitate total withdrawal. The Editors, National Review, "Trump’s Afghan Escalation," 22 Aug. 2017

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

Verb

1528, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a

Noun

1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1615, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for precipitate

Verb and Adjective

Latin praecipitatus, past participle of praecipitare, from praecipit-, praeceps — see precipice

Noun

New Latin praecipitatum, from Latin, neuter of praecipitatus — see precipitate entry 1

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Learn More about precipitate

Time Traveler for precipitate

Time Traveler

The first known use of precipitate was in 1528

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Statistics for precipitate

Last Updated

18 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Precipitate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/precipitate. Accessed 24 January 2020.

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More Definitions for precipitate

precipitate

verb
How to pronounce precipitate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of precipitate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

formal : to cause (something) to happen quickly or suddenly
: to become separated from a liquid especially by a chemical process
: to cause (something solid) to become separated from a liquid especially by a chemical process

precipitate

noun
How to pronounce precipitate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of precipitate (Entry 2 of 3)

technical : a solid substance that is separated from a liquid especially by a chemical process

precipitate

adjective
How to pronounce precipitate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of precipitate (Entry 3 of 3)

formal : happening very quickly or too quickly without enough thought or planning

precipitate

verb
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \ pri-ˈsi-pə-ˌtāt How to pronounce precipitate (audio) \
precipitated; precipitating

Kids Definition of precipitate

1 : to cause to happen suddenly or unexpectedly The misunderstanding precipitated a quarrel.
2 : to change from a vapor to a liquid or solid and fall as rain or snow
3 : to separate from a solution The procedure called for precipitating salt from seawater.

precipitate

verb
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \ pri-ˈsip-ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce precipitate (audio) \
precipitated; precipitating

Medical Definition of precipitate

 (Entry 1 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to bring about especially abruptly
2a : to cause to separate from solution or suspension
b : to cause (vapor) to condense and fall or deposit

intransitive verb

1 : to fall or come suddenly into some condition
2 : to separate from solution or suspension

precipitate

noun
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \ pri-ˈsip-ət-ət, -ə-ˌtāt How to pronounce precipitate (audio) \

Medical Definition of precipitate (Entry 2 of 2)

: a substance separated from a solution or suspension by chemical or physical change usually as an insoluble amorphous or crystalline solid

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Comments on precipitate

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