pro·​lif·​er·​ate | \ prə-ˈli-fə-ˌrāt How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \
proliferated; proliferating

Definition of proliferate

intransitive verb

1 : to grow by rapid production of new parts, cells, buds, or offspring
2 : to increase in number as if by proliferating : multiply

transitive verb

1 : to cause to grow by proliferating
2 : to cause to increase in number or extent as if by proliferating

Other Words from proliferate

proliferation \ prə-​ˌli-​fə-​ˈrā-​shən How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \ noun
proliferative \ prə-​ˈli-​fə-​ˌrā-​tiv How to pronounce proliferate (audio) , prə-​ˈli-​f(ə-​)rə-​tiv How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \ adjective

Did you know?

Proliferate is a back-formation of proliferation. That means that proliferation came first (we borrowed it from French in the 18th century) and was later shortened to form the verb proliferate. Ultimately these terms come from Latin. The French adjective prolifère ("reproducing freely") comes from the Latin noun proles and the Latin combining form -fer. Proles means "offspring" or "descendants," and -fer means "bearing." Both of these Latin forms gave rise to numerous other English words. Prolific and proletarian ultimately come from proles; aquifer and words ending in -ferous have their roots in -fer.

Examples of proliferate in a Sentence

rumors about the incident proliferated on the Internet
Recent Examples on the Web Venues for weddings and other gatherings continue to proliferate throughout the Milwaukee area. Tom Daykin, Journal Sentinel, 2 Aug. 2022 The ability of bacteria and viruses to proliferate across the world will continue to accelerate due to air travel and the ever-increasing volume of global trade. A. Roger Ekirch, WSJ, 16 July 2021 That’s the two-week increase in the average daily Covid deaths and hospitalizations, per NBC’s data team, as new omicron subvariants continue to proliferate across the country. Mark Murray, NBC News, 14 July 2022 As midterm election campaigns intensify across the country, posts about voting laws continue to proliferate on social media. Molly Stellino, USA TODAY, 14 July 2022 Sometimes called micro-isolation, this solution will continuously optimize itself to ensure assets are protected—and botnets and other threats can’t proliferate. Tim Liu, Forbes, 12 July 2022 Cryptoassets of all kinds are continuing to expand and proliferate in the financial space, an CPAs are uniquely well positioned to leverage these emerging opportunities for themselves and clients. Sean Stein Smith, Forbes, 26 June 2022 Outlets that offer less healthy fare — such as fast-food joints, liquor stores and corner stores — tend to proliferate in those deserts. Courtland Milloy, Washington Post, 17 May 2022 Instead of becoming stewards of law and order, dictators become agents of anarchy who proliferate war, genocide, poverty and pandemics. Daniel Twining, WSJ, 6 May 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'proliferate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of proliferate

1866, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for proliferate

back-formation from proliferation, from French prolifération, from proliférer to proliferate, from prolifère reproducing freely, from Latin proles + -fer -ferous

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Time Traveler for proliferate

Time Traveler

The first known use of proliferate was in 1866

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Last Updated

7 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Proliferate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for proliferate


pro·​lif·​er·​ate | \ prə-ˈlif-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \
proliferated; proliferating

Medical Definition of proliferate

intransitive verb

: to grow by rapid production of new parts, cells, buds, or offspring

transitive verb

: to cause to grow by proliferating

More from Merriam-Webster on proliferate

Nglish: Translation of proliferate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of proliferate for Arabic Speakers


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