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

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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 came about in 1873 as a back-formation of "proliferation." That means that "proliferation" came first (we borrowed it from French in the 1850s) 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 For Lattice Semiconductor to continue to proliferate, the company will have to focus on growing in its current markets and attacking new ones. Patrick Moorhead, Forbes, 13 May 2021 The flow of dangerous content continues to proliferate. Anita Chabria, Los Angeles Times, 30 Mar. 2021 As the plant based and meatless industry grows and enters new markets, expect to see options proliferate. Richard Howells, Forbes, 4 May 2021 The jumping worm's ability to reproduce without mating, proliferate quickly and lay eggs that resemble the soil are a few qualities that make the worm extremely invasive, reported Cindy Dampier for the Chicago Tribune. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Apr. 2021 That such scams would proliferate during a bull market, and amid a pandemic, were hardly a surprise to the investigators. Eric J. Lyman, Fortune, 19 Apr. 2021 But the campaign unleashed the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet, with widespread death, destruction and hunger, while doing little to diminish Iran’s role and allowing jihadist militias to proliferate. Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times, 25 Feb. 2021 The problems with the Trump internet have not disappeared—online spaces dedicated to hate and delusion still proliferate. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, 13 Apr. 2021 That sales of objects from Japanese American concentration camps continue to proliferate is just part of that pattern, said David Inoue, executive director of the civil rights organization Japanese American Citizens League. Harmeet Kaur, CNN, 11 Apr. 2021

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.

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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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Statistics for proliferate

Last Updated

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Proliferate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for proliferate



English Language Learners Definition of proliferate

: to increase in number or amount quickly


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


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