prop·​a·​gate | \ ˈprä-pə-ˌgāt How to pronounce propagate (audio) \
propagated; propagating

Definition of propagate

transitive verb

1 : to cause to continue or increase by sexual or asexual reproduction
2 : to pass along to offspring
3a : to cause to spread out and affect a greater number or greater area : extend
b : to foster growing knowledge of, familiarity with, or acceptance of (something, such as an idea or belief) : publicize
c : to transmit (something, such as sound or light) through a medium

intransitive verb

1 : to multiply sexually or asexually
3 : to travel through space or a material used of wave energy (such as light, sound, or radio waves)

Other Words from propagate

propagative \ ˈprä-​pə-​ˌgā-​tiv How to pronounce propagate (audio) \ adjective
propagator \ ˈprä-​pə-​ˌgā-​tər How to pronounce propagate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms for propagate


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The origins of propagate are firmly rooted in the field of horticulture. The word is a 16th century Latin borrowing, ultimately from the verb propagare, which means "to set (onto a plant) a small shoot or twig cut for planting or grafting." The word's meaning quickly extended from the realm of the farm and field to less material kinds of reproduction, such as the spreading of ideas and beliefs. The similarity between propagate and propaganda is not coincidental; that word also comes to us from propagare, although it took a more circuitous route.

Examples of propagate in a Sentence

We are discovering new ways to propagate plants without seeds. He propagated the apple tree by grafting. The plants failed to propagate.
Recent Examples on the Web Scheduled during a programming lull in the summer, the presentations have enjoyed robust media coverage, and the spread over multiple weeks has allowed the revelations and stories to propagate and sink in. Inkoo Kang, Washington Post, 23 June 2022 In any nuclear reactor, the purpose is to maintain a nuclear fission chain reaction in the fuel that generates heat and also additional neutrons, which are used to propagate the chain reaction. Andrea Thompson, Scientific American, 4 Mar. 2022 The initial push in the late 19th and early 20th centuries resulted in populations that now propagate in the wild. Wes Siler, Outside Online, 1 Apr. 2021 Some complaints, according to Gupta’s emails accessed by WSJ, copied language from popular disinformation websites that propagate the idea that Hindus, a majority in India, are being marginalized. Manavi Kapur, Quartz, 3 June 2022 The concern is legitimate that AI could propagate inequity if its boundaries are set by data scientists looking for the most accurate model rather than the most fair and just. Rick Newell, Forbes, 19 May 2022 Considered a sterile hybrid, plant experts did not think the tree would propagate out of control, but scientists developed smaller hybrids designed to compensate for the Bradford pear's weak branch structure. Chelsey Cox, USA TODAY, 18 Apr. 2022 Chinese officials have also helped propagate misinformation campaigns launched by the Kremlin about U.S.-supported biological labs in Ukraine, a claim used by the Kremlin as a reason to invade its neighbor. Washington Post, 4 Apr. 2022 To help minimize the probability of fires spreading on your property, experts recommend removing plants that readily ignite or propagate fire, and abiding by plant siting guidelines based on home ignition zones. oregonlive, 31 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of propagate

1535, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for propagate

Latin propagatus, past participle of propagare to set slips, propagate, from propages slip, offspring, from pro- before + pangere to fasten — more at pro-, pact

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Time Traveler for propagate

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The first known use of propagate was in 1535

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propagating frame

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Last Updated

30 Jul 2022

Cite this Entry

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

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More Definitions for propagate


prop·​a·​gate | \ ˈprä-pə-ˌgāt How to pronounce propagate (audio) \
propagated; propagating

Kids Definition of propagate

1 : to have or cause to have offspring : multiply You can propagate apple trees from seed.
2 : to cause (as an idea or belief) to spread out and affect a greater number or wider area The preacher traveled to propagate his faith.


prop·​a·​gate | \ ˈpräp-ə-ˌgāt How to pronounce propagate (audio) \
propagated; propagating

Medical Definition of propagate

transitive verb

1 : to cause to continue or increase by sexual or asexual reproduction
2 : to cause to spread or to be transmitted

intransitive verb

: to multiply sexually or asexually

Other Words from propagate

propagable \ ˈpräp-​ə-​gə-​bəl How to pronounce propagate (audio) \ adjective
propagative \ -​ˌgāt-​iv How to pronounce propagate (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on propagate

Nglish: Translation of propagate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of propagate for Arabic Speakers


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