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 Many speculate that the difficulty of monetizing the Internet is one reason measured GDP growth has slowed in recent years, even as consumers and businesses derive enormous benefits from it. Philip Cross, National Review, "Innovation: Elusive, Hard to Measure but Essential," 30 Dec. 2020 But some physicists speculate that our universe is just one among many. Matthew Pillsbury, Travel, "Time travel for travelers? It’s tricky.," 28 Dec. 2020 Some campaign finance experts speculate that Trump might try to use the excess of cash in his new PAC, formally known as a leadership PAC, to pay for his own personal future legal quagmires. Star Tribune, "Trump cushions blow of defeat by raising huge sums of money from supporters," 18 Dec. 2020 Ravinder and Helson speculate that the birds might be avoiding the lingering smell of epoxy, or might be put off by the lack of moss and lichen on the walls. Yao-hua Law, The Atlantic, "Helmeted Hornbills Are Very Picky About Their Nests," 16 Dec. 2020 Ahead of the Baltimore Ravens' 47-42 defeat over the Cleveland Browns, many fans noticed the quarterback rush off the field during the high-energy game, and some couldn't help but speculate about why. Jen Juneau, PEOPLE.com, "Lamar Jackson Hilariously Responds After Fans Speculate He Rushed Off Field to Go to the Bathroom," 15 Dec. 2020 Lately scientists have begun to question this conventional thinking and speculate that space—and its extension according to general relativity, spacetime—is actually composed of tiny chunks of information. Clara Moskowitz, Scientific American, "Tangled Up in Spacetime," 26 Oct. 2016 Exotic's showbiz lifestyle have led many to speculate that Trump would view him as a kindred spirit and grant a pardon. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "Trump pardons: 7 high profile people who may get one," 18 Dec. 2020 The company’s sleek technology makes trading visually appealing and encourages users to speculate although Robinhood says most of its customers aren’t active day traders. Alexander Osipovich, WSJ, "Robinhood Financial to Pay $65 Million to Settle SEC Probe," 17 Dec. 2020

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

13 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Speculate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/speculate. Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for speculate


How to pronounce speculate (audio)

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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