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 proliferation (audio) \ noun
proliferative \ prə-​ˈli-​fə-​ˌrā-​tiv How to pronounce proliferative (audio) , prə-​ˈli-​f(ə-​)rə-​tiv How to pronounce proliferative (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 His chain of boutique hotels — known for celebrating local art and culture while retaining the history of the original buildings — proliferated across the country. Meagan Flynn, Washington Post, "How Gordon Sondland, a wealthy hotelier turned ambassador, became the latest key player in the Ukraine inquiry," 4 Oct. 2019 At the same time, frequent fires in some suburban foothills have allowed invasive, fast-burning plant species to encroach on homes, which are proliferating across the West’s mountain regions. Los Angeles Times, "Sprinklers and gadgets won’t save your home from a wildfire. What your neighbor does might," 3 Oct. 2019 YouTube, Facebook and Twitter played Whac-A-Mole after the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, when the shooter’s video surfaced and proliferated across the web. Cat Zakrzewski, The Denver Post, "Drug dealers are peddling steroids on Facebook and YouTube," 22 Sep. 2019 Although temporary staffing has proliferated across the government, the increase has been largest in the health care field. Lydia Depillis, CNN, "What's behind the US government's massive spending on temp workers," 2 Aug. 2019 The San Jose metro area already has the most extensive adoption of electric vehicles in the nation, and electric bikes and scooters proliferate in our downtown and beyond. Sam Liccardo, The Mercury News, "Opinion: Making San Jose a model city for sustainability," 25 Aug. 2019 Minds eventually banned the accounts when Motherboard showed them to the platform, but the company’s lax content moderation allowed them to proliferate unchecked for months. Casey Newton, The Verge, "The White House’s social media summit has an ulterior motive," 11 July 2019 As ambitious sushi restaurants, particularly those serving omakase, continue to proliferate throughout San Francisco and the greater Bay Area, there are more opportunities than ever to begin to understand the subtle art. Omar Mamoon,, "Q&A with master sushi chef Jiro Lin of Hamano in San Francisco," 28 Aug. 2019 Zebra mussels, an invasive species that like to hitch rides on boats and clog pipes and take over bodies of water, will do their best to proliferate regardless of what oil and gas prices are doing. Aldo Svaldi, The Denver Post, "Colorado severance tax collections expected to drop sharply, even though a bust is nowhere in sight," 18 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for proliferate

Last Updated

13 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for proliferate

The first known use of proliferate was in 1866

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More Definitions for proliferate


How to pronounce proliferate (audio)

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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