spec·​u·​late | \ ˈspe-kyə-ˌlāt How to pronounce speculate (audio) \
speculated; speculating

Definition of speculate

intransitive verb

1a : to meditate on or ponder a subject : reflect
b : to review something idly or casually and often inconclusively
2 : to assume a business risk in hope of gain especially : to make a relatively risky investment in something (such as stocks or real estate) in the hope of making a large short-term profit from market fluctuations

transitive verb

1 : to take to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence : theorize
2 : to be curious or doubtful about : wonder speculates whether it will rain all vacation

Synonyms for speculate


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Choose the Right Synonym for speculate

think, cogitate, reflect, reason, speculate, deliberate mean to use one's powers of conception, judgment, or inference. think is general and may apply to any mental activity, but used alone often suggests attainment of clear ideas or conclusions. teaches students how to think cogitate implies deep or intent thinking. cogitated on the mysteries of nature reflect suggests unhurried consideration of something recalled to the mind. reflecting on fifty years of married life reason stresses consecutive logical thinking. able to reason brilliantly in debate speculate implies reasoning about things theoretical or problematic. speculated on the fate of the lost explorers deliberate suggests slow or careful reasoning before forming an opinion or reaching a conclusion or decision. the jury deliberated for five hours

Did you know?

Speculate was adopted into English in the late 16th century from Latin speculatus, the past participle of the verb speculari, which means "to spy out" or "to examine." Speculari, in turn, derives from specula, meaning "lookout post," and ultimately from the Latin verb specere, meaning "to look (at)." Other conspicuous descendants of specere are inspect and suspect. Some less obvious descendants are the words despise, species, specimen, and as you may have speculated, conspicuous.

Examples of speculate in a Sentence

She could only speculate about her friend's motives. He speculated as to whether she would come. We don't know what happened—we can only speculate. speculating on the stock market
Recent Examples on the Web Some Western analysts speculate that Mr. Putin may instead point to the territory that Moscow has already seized in eastern Ukraine to bolster his false claims that Russia is liberating the region from Nazis. New York Times, 6 May 2022 Others speculate that the statue is a likeness of Sextus Pompey, son of Pompey the Great, who formed the first triumvirate along with Julius Caesar and Marcus Crassus. Elizabeth Djinis, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 May 2022 In the hall, some attendees speculate about how many trillions of dollars of assets under management are represented at this year’s conference. Chase Peterson-withorn, Forbes, 5 May 2022 The researchers speculate that much of the rest of the differences between dogs comes down to individual experiences, training and other environmental factors. Katie Shepherd, Anchorage Daily News, 30 Apr. 2022 Some speculate that notifications in iOS 16 will offer better and more grouping options. Yoni Heisler, BGR, 23 Apr. 2022 Although a definitive cause of extinction is not known, scientists speculate that habitat loss and destructive fishing of other sea-life (like scallops) had a hand in their demise. Daisy Hernandez, Popular Mechanics, 21 Apr. 2022 Many prominent analysts speculate that Bitcoin may eventually take over gold's role as a store of value and long-term inflation hedge. Robert Samuels | For Iron Monk Solutions, The Salt Lake Tribune, 18 Apr. 2022 Some analysts speculate that Musk is banking on power users like himself – those with the biggest followings – to get more people to tune into Twitter. Jessica Guynn And Terry Collins, USA TODAY, 14 Apr. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of speculate

1599, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1a

History and Etymology for speculate

Latin speculatus, past participle of speculari to spy out, examine, from specula lookout post, from specere to look, look at — more at spy

Learn More About speculate

Time Traveler for speculate

Time Traveler

The first known use of speculate was in 1599

See more words from the same year

Listen to Our Podcast About speculate

Dictionary Entries Near speculate

specular reflection



See More Nearby Entries 

Statistics for speculate

Last Updated

13 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Speculate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/speculate. Accessed 23 May. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More Definitions for speculate


spec·​u·​late | \ ˈspe-kyə-ˌlāt How to pronounce speculate (audio) \
speculated; speculating

Kids Definition of speculate

1 : to think or wonder about something
2 : to come up with ideas or theories about something
3 : to engage in a risky but possibly very profitable business deal


spec·​u·​late | \ ˈspe-kyə-ˌlāt How to pronounce speculate (audio) \
speculated; speculating

Legal Definition of speculate

intransitive verb

1 : to theorize on the basis of insufficient evidence

Note: A jury is not permitted to speculate on a matter about which insufficient evidence has been presented in reaching its verdict.

2 : to assume a business risk in hope of gain especially : to buy or sell in expectation of profiting from market fluctuations

transitive verb

: to take to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence

Other Words from speculate

speculator \ -​ˌlā-​tər How to pronounce speculate (audio) \ noun

More from Merriam-Webster on speculate

Nglish: Translation of speculate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of speculate for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Eponyms: Words Named After People

Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!