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 Some also warn that as Saudi screens proliferate the occupancy level is dropping. Nick Vivarelli, Variety, 28 Apr. 2022 As Squad-style progressive primary challengers proliferate, the pledge gives them a chance to differentiate themselves from incumbents—and way for those incumbents to step up that goes beyond rhetoric. Kate Aronoff, The New Republic, 28 Mar. 2022 The worry is that, as streaming services proliferate — more than 300 now operate in the United States, according to the consulting firm Parks Associates — theaters could become exclusively the land of superheroes, sequels and remakes. New York Times, 26 Mar. 2022 Expect the trend to stick around as electric vehicles proliferate—big wheels are particularly effective at helping hide the extra height of the slab of lithium-ion cells between the axles. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 10 Mar. 2022 Around the age of forty, as her schools continued to proliferate and demand for her training grew, Montessori resigned from her position at the University of Rome, hoping to focus entirely on her burgeoning educational movement. Jessica Winter, The New Yorker, 3 Mar. 2022 Alabama’s most populous city - continues to pave cotton fields and deer runs, as new homes and subdivisions proliferate across the county, driven by sudden population growth over the last decade. Ramsey Archibald |, al, 1 Mar. 2022 As hate crimes proliferate, there’s a growing push to shine a light on bigotry. Patrik Jonsson, The Christian Science Monitor, 23 Feb. 2022 So, while infantis has continued to proliferate in the chicken industry, the rate of Reading found in turkey during routine USDA sampling has gone down 73% since 2018, a ProPublica analysis found. Bernice Yeung, ProPublica, 29 Dec. 2021 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

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The first known use of proliferate was in 1866

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Last Updated

15 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Proliferate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 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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