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


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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
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Recent Examples on the Web Shawn Mendes is teasing new music as fans speculate a new album is on the way. Vanessa Etienne, PEOPLE.com, 20 Jan. 2022 The good news is that this makes for a great environment for savvy stock pickers like us, while folks who buy index funds or, worse, speculate on profitless tech stocks, NFTs and other gimmicks, will be left very exposed, indeed. Brett Owens, Forbes, 19 Jan. 2022 The biographer does not speculate as to why Picasso was capable of great cruelty – such an assessment would require a deep dive into psychology, which is outside the expertise of an art historian. Terry W. Hartle, The Christian Science Monitor, 20 Dec. 2021 The virus picked up so many mutations so quickly that scientists speculate the variant might not have come from the average case of Covid. Andrew Joseph, STAT, 30 Nov. 2021 Head coach Kyle Shanahan said both players would get an MRI exam Monday and did not speculate on how much time either could miss. Eric Branch, San Francisco Chronicle, 28 Nov. 2021 Although ski resorts can’t yet speculate on how busy this season will be, if the slopes follow the same trend as national parks and other outdoor areas, 2021-2022 could break even more records. Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2021 Shane Huntley, director of Google TAG, says that the team doesn't speculate about attribution and didn't have enough technical evidence in this case to specifically attribute the attacks. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, 11 Nov. 2021 Rather than speculate on the cause for the shootings, the mayoral candidates criticized their opponents for not paying closer attention to the phenomenon. New York Times, 12 May 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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Dictionary Entries Near speculate

specular reflection



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Statistics for speculate

Last Updated

25 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Speculate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/speculate. Accessed 25 Jan. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on speculate

Nglish: Translation of speculate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of speculate for Arabic Speakers


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