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.
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 WebFor most of the 20th century, neuroscientists largely agreed that neurons are the only brain cells that propagate electrical signals.—Laura Dattaro, Quanta Magazine, 18 Oct. 2023 The A-frame wood stand with glass bulb vases is perfect for propagating plant cuttings, offering both functionality and aesthetic appeal to your home.—Kathy Barr, Rolling Stone, 15 Nov. 2023 Cut your own plants right below the node, package them up in a moisture-retaining material like some sphagnum moss or a wet paper towel, wrap them up in cling wrap, add a little bow, and voila—a bouquet of cuttings ready to propagate into more leafy little ones.—Helen Bradshaw, Popular Science, 9 Nov. 2023 Siebel says society should be aligned that AI shouldn’t misuse private information, propagate social health hazards, interfere with democratic processes, or be used for sensitive military applications without civilian oversight.—Byjohn Kell, Fortune, 8 Nov. 2023 The set includes a cleaning brush to easily clean out tubes between propagating different plant cuttings.—Samantha Jones, Better Homes & Gardens, 24 Aug. 2023 When the crush occurred, city officials either overtly or obliquely began propagating the notion that the revelers themselves must have been at fault, having overindulged in drink or drugs or otherwise ignored the obvious danger signs.—TIME, 26 Oct. 2023 Israel, supported by individuals in the US government, have propagated lies such as this many times before.—Joe Snell, Washington Post, 19 Oct. 2023 Ismaili missionaries fanned out across the Muslim world to propagate their faith and provide spiritual guidance, despite facing persecution by Sunni authorities.—Nicholas Liu, Smithsonian Magazine, 10 Oct. 2023 See More
These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'propagate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.
Latin propagatus, past participle of propagare to set slips, propagate, from propages slip, offspring, from pro- before + pangere to fasten — more at pro-, pact