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 buy or sell in expectation of profiting 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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Other Words from speculate

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

Synonyms for speculate


assume, conjecture, daresay, guess, imagine, presume, suppose, surmise, suspect, suspicion [chiefly dialect]

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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

Then, fans started speculating about Swift's outfit. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Taylor Swift's Surprise Night Out at the 2019 Golden Globes: Everything We Know," 7 Jan. 2019 Its upper jaw is equipped with a set of 14 stubby teeth, which has led scientists to speculate about their subterranean diet of insects and spiders. Jill Kiedaisch, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Place to Find a Snake Is Inside a Different Snake," 21 Dec. 2018 Initial reports said the girl had died of dehydration, but the family has asked media to stop speculating about the cause of death until a formal autopsy is conducted this week. Dara Lind, Vox, "The death of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin in Border Patrol custody isn’t an isolated outrage," 18 Dec. 2018 The press has been speculating about which ministers or officials might lose their jobs. Elaine Ganley, The Seattle Times, "Macron takes responsibility for scandal over aide’s violence," 24 July 2018 The tabloids feverishly speculated about who would perform the role. Diane Atkinson, Time, "Meghan Markle Should Walk Down the Aisle Alone and Not Pass From One 'Owner' to Another," 18 May 2018 Scholars have since discovered Hurston plagiarized significantly from Roche’s interviews and speculated about Hurston’s transgression, citing her frustration with her lacking material. Anna Diamond, Smithsonian, "Zora Neale Hurston’s ‘Barracoon’ Tells the Story of the Slave Trade’s Last Survivor," 2 May 2018 Regardless, the property is burdened by debt, and observers speculate that the asking price was inflated as much to help the owners refinance as to drive PR. Alex Bhattacharji, Town & Country, "An Empty Lot Above Beverly Hills Is the Most Expensive Real Estate in the World," 17 Jan. 2019 Some gossip sites speculated wildly about the reasons for her pregnancy and her child's paternity. Hanna Lustig, Teen Vogue, "Jamie Lynn Spears Claims the Real Reason Zoey 101 Ended Wasn't Pregnancy," 10 Jan. 2019

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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Statistics for speculate

Last Updated

14 Mar 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for speculate

The first known use of speculate was in 1599

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More Definitions for speculate



Financial Definition of speculator

What It Is

A speculator is a person or an entity that trades securities essentially as bets that the price will go up or down, and as such, typically has an above-average risk tolerance.

How It Works

Although one can argue that all investment is speculation, an acknowledged speculator will buy or sell a security solely to reap a typically short-term profit from the price movement of that security. This motivation differs significantly from those of more traditional investors or hedgers.

For example, consider the purchase of corn futures. A hedger may purchase these securities in order to offset any negative movements in the price of corn and thus stabilize his or her portfolio (these people might be corn growers or cereal companies, for instance). A speculator, however, may buy the very same security simply because he or she has reason to believe the position will increase in value. He or she simply bets on which way the market is going to go.

Why It Matters

Speculation can sometimes drive securities prices away from their intrinsic value, either becoming overpriced during a buying frenzy or becoming underpriced during a huge sell-off. Although speculators sometimes get a bad rap in the press for this reason, they are a crucial lubricant to the markets, particularly the commodities markets. Although they don't want to physically possess any of the commodities they're trading (that is, they don't really want a truckload of rice delivered to their door), their trading activity brings liquidity to the market, which in turn provides stability and efficiency to those markets.

It is important to note, however, that speculators are generally bigger risk takers than other investors. They are more likely than other investors to use leverage, and as such can suffer huge losses alongside huge gains.

Source: Investing Answers



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

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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 speculator (audio) \ noun

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Comments on speculate

What made you want to look up speculate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to boil down or concentrate

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