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)

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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 was borrowed into English in the late 16th century from Latin propagatus, the past participle of the verb propagare, which means "to set (onto a plant) a small shoot or twig cut for planting or grafting." Propagare, in turn, derives from propages, meaning "layer (of a plant), slip, offspring." It makes sense, therefore, that the earliest uses of propagate referred to facilitating the reproduction of a plant or animal. Nowadays, however, the meaning of propagate can extend to the "reproduction" of something intangible, such as an idea or belief. Incidentally, propaganda also comes to us from propagare, although it took a somewhat different route into English.

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Some cells pass their genes on to the next generation, the germline cells like eggs and sperm, and then there are all the rest, the somatic cells that support the germline in its quest to propagate itself. Quanta Magazine, 22 Sep. 2021 Understanding how plant traits are expressed and combining them with available logs of genetic sequences might allow scientists to propagate more robust plants that are ready to face the challenges of climate change. Elizabeth Gamillo, Smithsonian Magazine, 11 Sep. 2021 Unlike every other quantum of matter or radiation, gravitational waves aren't typically thought of as particles that propagate through spacetime, but rather as a form of radiation that is itself a ripple in the fabric of spacetime. Ethan Siegel, Forbes, 18 June 2021 Blooms develop in rivers when the water becomes slack and warm and may last until weather and rains cool the water levels to a point where the blooms can no longer propagate. oregonlive, 6 Aug. 2021 Fighters destroy holy sites and valuable antiquities as their leaders propagate a return to the early days of Islam. CNN, 19 Aug. 2021 Masks, Andreae noted, tend to be best at snagging the larger droplets dislodged when a person coughs or sneezes and less effective at blocking the very fine particles that propagate when people speak and even breathe. Paul Sisson, San Diego Union-Tribune, 25 July 2021 Their staff will collect seeds of some of the rare plants in the Dusty Preserve and propagate them to be replanted or shared. Maria Shine Stewart, cleveland, 3 Aug. 2021 To propagate its ransomware out to an untold number of targets, the attackers found a vulnerability in the update mechanism used by the IT services company Kaseya. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, 4 July 2021

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.

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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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Dictionary Entries Near propagate



propagating frame

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Last Updated

10 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Propagate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for propagate



English Language Learners Definition of propagate

: to make (something, such as an idea or belief) known to many people
: to produce (a new plant)


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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