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

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Synonyms for speculate


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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, "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
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Recent Examples on the Web Something feels wrong, and his mom tries to speculate, but Andrew manipulates and lies about the situation. Ashley Ray-harris, Vulture, "90 Day Fiancé Season-Finale Recap: Yara and Jovi Take Center Stage," 5 Apr. 2021 Too much can happen before then to speculate how he’ll be affected. BostonGlobe.com, "How Rockies pitcher Scott Oberg, a Tewksbury native, is dealing with his latest setback," 3 Apr. 2021 Vegas landmarks such as the shaft of light emanating from the Luxor pyramid’s pinnacle were especially loaded with the insects, causing many to speculate back in 2019 that the bright lights of the desert city had in fact drawn the insects. Alex Fox, Smithsonian Magazine, "Las Vegas Was Inundated by 46 Million Grasshoppers on a Single Night in 2019," 2 Apr. 2021 There’s a burgeoning options market linked to ARK’s ETF, giving traders yet another way to speculate on ARK’s bets. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "Cathie Wood mentor Arthur Laffer says the ARK CEO’s horizon has always been ‘forever’," 30 Mar. 2021 The company had been steadily losing ground to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing in advanced chip-manufacturing processes, which led many on Wall Street to speculate that Intel could get out of the chip-making business altogether. Dan Gallagher, WSJ, "Intel Plays its Chips Just Right," 23 Mar. 2021 But again, there’s not enough information at this point to speculate as to which country might be behind the current attacks. Yoni Heisler, BGR, "Hackers used multiple zero-day exploits to target iPhone, Android, and Windows users," 19 Mar. 2021 Authorities refused to speculate as to Cornelius' motive, saying detectives were just beginning a lengthy investigation that will include poring over the facility's surveillance footage and interviewing hundreds of Roundy's employees. Todd Richmond, Star Tribune, "Police search for motive in fatal Wisconsin warehouse attack," 18 Mar. 2021 Six of the eight victims were Asian, prompting some to immediately speculate that the killings were a hate crime. Michael Lee, Washington Examiner, "New York Times contributor declares 'whiteness' a 'pandemic': 'The only way to stop it is to kill it'," 18 Mar. 2021

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.

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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

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Time Traveler for speculate

Time Traveler

The first known use of speculate was in 1599

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Statistics for speculate

Last Updated

7 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Speculate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/speculate. Accessed 17 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for speculate



English Language Learners Definition of speculate

: to think about something and make guesses about it : to form ideas or theories about something usually when there are many things not known about it
: to invest money in ways that could produce a large profit but that also involve a lot of risk


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

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Comments on speculate

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