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 The problems with the Trump internet have not disappeared—online spaces dedicated to hate and delusion still proliferate. Kaitlyn Tiffany, The Atlantic, "The Alt-Right Has Lost Control of Redpill," 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, "eBay removes a listing selling art created in a Japanese American concentration camp," 11 Apr. 2021 With this type of behavior, corporate zombies will continue to proliferate. Mayra Rodriguez Valladares, Forbes, "U.S. Corporates Continue To Gorge At The Debt Trough," 10 Apr. 2021 As mask mandates lift in some areas and Covid-19 vaccinations proliferate, concert promoters, restaurant owners and movie-theater operators are counting on a robust reopening to compensate for a year of stay-at-home restrictions. Erich Schwartzel, WSJ, "‘Godzilla vs. Kong’ Roars at Theaters, Suggests Pent-Up Demand," 4 Apr. 2021 As remodeling projects begin to proliferate with the advent of warmer weather, here are some considerations ― including big price increases ― for any homeowners who may want to redo a bathroom or kitchen, or add space to their homes., "Looking to spruce up your home this spring? Here’s what you need to know.," 2 Apr. 2021 Bánh mì, the Vietnamese phrase for bread or sandwich, is now included in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and phở shops proliferate across the country. Taylor Kate Brown, San Francisco Chronicle, "Bay Briefing: Will a fourth surge happen?," 11 Mar. 2021 Virtual marketing was already beginning to proliferate in the real estate industry, but Covid-19 has given it a huge shot in the arm. Brosnan C. Hoban, Forbes, "Three Ways Covid-19 Has Changed Commercial Real Estate Forever," 5 Apr. 2021 As scarcity ends and supplies proliferate, the emphasis will shift to populations that are more difficult to reach, Schneider said. Griff Witte, Anchorage Daily News, "Some states are racing ahead of others with their coronavirus vaccine rollouts. Their secret? Keeping it simple.," 4 Feb. 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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Last Updated

21 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Proliferate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 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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