precipitate

verb
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \pri-ˈsi-pə-ˌtāt \
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, -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 \

Definition of precipitate (Entry 3 of 3)

1a : falling, flowing, or rushing with steep descent

b : precipitous, steep

2 : exhibiting violent or unwise speed

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Other Words from precipitate

Verb

precipitative \ pri-​ˈsi-​pə-​ˌtā-​tiv \ adjective
precipitator \ pri-​ˈsi-​pə-​ˌtā-​tər \ 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

Did You Know?

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

After a rules change last year that both parties had a hand in precipitating, a simple majority will do. Amber Phillips, Washington Post, "Why Democrats have basically no chance of stopping Trump’s Supreme Court pick," 28 June 2018 Two of the major issues precipitating this decline are habitat destruction and an ongoing chlamydia epidemic. Meilan Solly, Smithsonian, "Newly Mapped Koala Genome Unlocks Secrets of Marsupial’s Diet, Susceptibility to Chlamydia," 3 July 2018 This rapid meltdown precipitated a record-shattering decline in Bering Sea ice through the winter and into spring, which has threatened the very way of life in Alaska’s coastal villages — reliant on the ice cover for transportation and hunting. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, "‘Fallen off a cliff’: Scientists have never observed so little ice in the Bering Sea in spring," 3 May 2018 Most noticeably, the precipitating trauma in Patrick’s life, perpetrated by his father, is presented quite differently. New York Times, "Review: ‘Patrick Melrose’ Is Flat Despite a Peerless Benedict Cumberbatch," 10 May 2018 Last February, when SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket tossed CEO Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster toward Mars, the event precipitated a minor planetary-protection crisis—the car had not been sterilized for an unlikely-but-possible impact with the Red Planet. Leonard David, Scientific American, "As Space Becomes a Busy Place, NASA Bolsters Its Planet-Contamination Police," 3 July 2018 Furious that special counsel Robert Mueller has expanded his investigation, an unbridled Trump could fire him—precipitating a constitutional crisis and in effect a civil war between Trump supporters and the rest of America. Robert Reich, Newsweek, "Robert Reich: Donald Trump Has Become The Mad King," 19 Mar. 2018 The emergence of Lewerke, who took more than 95 percent of the snaps this fall, precipitated the postseason transfer of Messiah deWeaver. Chris Solari, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan State solid with QB Brian Lewerke; changes coming behind him," 8 Jan. 2018 The Mercers’ move -- and Trump’s maneuvering to precipitate it -- illustrates the depth of the president’s rift with Bannon, who is quoted in a book by author Michael Wolff criticizing Trump and insulting the Trump family. Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg.com, "Trump Isolates ‘Leaker’ Bannon in Feud as Mercers Cut Off Money," 4 Jan. 2018

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

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

Noun

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

Adjective

see precipitate entry 1

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Last Updated

8 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for precipitate

The first known use of precipitate was in 1528

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More Definitions for precipitate

precipitate

verb

English Language Learners Definition of precipitate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: 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

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

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

precipitate

adjective

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

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

precipitate

verb
pre·​cip·​i·​tate | \pri-ˈsi-pə-ˌtāt \
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 \
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 \

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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