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


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


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


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


precipitately adverb
precipitateness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for precipitate


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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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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In its propensity to precipitate, Friday seemed similar to the first five days of May. Three of the month’s first five days saw rain. Washington Post, 7 May 2022 That, in turn, could precipitate an economic recession by wiping out household wealth and by causing strains in the financial system. Desmond Lachman For Cnn Business Perspectives, CNN, 17 Mar. 2022 Despite its enormous success at the time, CryptoKitties, the first popular release to utilize blockchain technology in late 2017, did not precipitate an immediate influx of games developers and creatives, with the burn being far more gradual. Lawrence Wintermeyer, Forbes, 25 Jan. 2022 Ukrainian officials have suggested that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August helped precipitate the crisis by signaling waning American resolve for overseas commitments, which emboldened the Kremlin. New York Times, 17 Dec. 2021 One of the standout moments from Tuesday’s earnings call was Friedman’s reference to The Big Short, a film that dramatized the collapse of the subprime mortgage market that helped precipitate the Great Recession in 2008. Will Daniel, Fortune, 30 Mar. 2022 Rihanna is always flanked by a team of people who precipitate upon her arrival. ELLE, 16 Mar. 2022 Ukraine and its border territories are also not the only places that could precipitate the sort of direct conflict with Russia that the United States wants to avoid. Karoun Demirjian, Anchorage Daily News, 1 Mar. 2022 Hamilton was undoubtedly thinking of France, where serious mismanagement of state debts had brought the Bourbon monarchy to its knees and helped precipitate the French Revolution. Samuel Gregg, National Review, 14 Feb. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun If the alkalinity gets too high, a chemical precipitate forms which can be toxic to ocean plankton. Eric Niiler, WSJ, 6 Mar. 2022 Our allies are rightly upset, blaming the U.S. for a precipitate, unilateral withdrawal that missed the opportunity for any coordinated plan to preserve some of the gains made in the country. Angelina Jolie, Time, 20 Aug. 2021 Does the mere act of making banks and other companies reveal their carbon footprint precipitate progress on eliminating climate risk? Tim Mcdonnell, Quartz, 21 May 2021 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,, 9 Dec. 2017 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Many writers, mostly men, continue to rely on rape as a nuclear option for female characters, a tool with which to impassion viewers, precipitate drama, and stir up controversy. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, 4 May 2021 This is all to the good, and better than a precipitate total withdrawal. The Editors, National Review, 22 Aug. 2017 See More

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


1528, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1a


1594, in the meaning defined at sense 1


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


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

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The first known use of precipitate was in 1528

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Last Updated

10 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Precipitate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for precipitate


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.


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


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

More from Merriam-Webster on precipitate

Nglish: Translation of precipitate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of precipitate for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about precipitate


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