tran·​spire | \ tran(t)-ˈspī(-ə)r How to pronounce transpire (audio) \
transpired; transpiring

Definition of transpire

intransitive verb

1 : to take place : go on, occur
2a : to become known or apparent : develop
b : to be revealed : come to light
3 : to give off vaporous material specifically : to give off or exude watery vapor especially from the surfaces of leaves
4 : to pass in the form of a vapor from a living body

transitive verb

: to pass off or give passage to (a fluid) through pores or interstices especially : to excrete (a fluid, such as water) in the form of a vapor through a living membrane (such as the skin)

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Can transpire mean 'to occur'?: Usage Guide

Sense 1 of transpire is the frequent whipping boy of those who suppose sense 2 to be the only meaning of the word. Sense 1 appears to have developed in the late 18th century; it was well enough known to have been used by Abigail Adams in a letter to her husband in 1775. there is nothing new transpired since I wrote you last — Abigail Adams Noah Webster recognized the new sense in his dictionary of 1828. Transpire was evidently a popular word with 19th century journalists; sense 1 turns up in such pretentiously worded statements as "The police drill will transpire under shelter to-day in consequence of the moist atmosphere prevailing." Around 1870 the sense began to be attacked as a misuse on the grounds of etymology, and modern critics echo the damnation of 1870. Sense 1 has been in existence for about two centuries; it is firmly established as standard; it occurs now primarily in serious prose, not the ostentatiously flamboyant prose typical of 19th century journalism.

Did You Know?

Transpire came to life in the late 16th century and was originally used in technical contexts to describe the passage of vapor through the pores of a membrane. From this technical use developed a figurative sense: to escape from secrecy, or to become known. That sense was often used in ambiguous contexts and could be taken to mean happen. (For example, Emily Dickinson wrote in a letter, I long to see you once more ... to tell you of many things which have transpired since we parted.) Thus the to take place sense developed. Around 1870, usage critics began to attack this sense as a misuse, and modern critics occasionally echo that sentiment. But the sense has been common for two centuries and today is found in serious and polished prose.

Examples of transpire in a Sentence

No one will soon forget the historic events that transpired on that day. A plant transpires more freely on a hot dry day. Trees transpire water at a rapid rate.
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Recent Examples on the Web The loner cells might therefore serve as a form of insurance in case any of those situations transpire. Quanta Magazine, "Out-of-Sync ‘Loners’ May Secretly Protect Orderly Swarms," 21 May 2020 And that scenario is almost exactly how my hunt transpired. Joe Genzel, Outdoor Life, "7 Confessions from a New Rifle Shooter (That Can Help All Newbies Get Started)," 1 June 2020 Law enforcement officials often ask that people reserve judgment in such cases until all facts — what transpired before or after what a video shows — are known. Lisa Marie Pane, Anchorage Daily News, "Police, experts condemn knee restraint used on George Floyd," 29 May 2020 Law enforcement officials often ask that people reserve judgment in such cases until all facts – what transpired before or after what a video shows – are known. Stefanie Dazio, The Christian Science Monitor, "Why Floyd death draws swift condemnation from police community," 29 May 2020 In the context of what was to transpire in Italy over the next several months, the little blue sports car has little to no significance. New York Times, "Stocks Waver as China Tensions Climb," 4 May 2020 When the two lovers lock gazes, whatever’s transpiring between them feels electric. Mayukh Sen, The Atlantic, "There Was No One Like Irrfan Khan," 30 Apr. 2020 Of particular interest is comparing the mid-range forecasting—such as the latter part of a 24- or 30-hour TAF—with what actually transpires to see if there is any degradation in the model. Popular Science, "The unexpected way COVID-19 is screwing up weather reports," 29 Apr. 2020 What transpires requires Frank to think on his feet, a trait that his ability to lie to everyone around him, as well as himself, facilitates. Bill Goodykoontz, azcentral, "HBO's 'Bad Education' is a good movie, thanks to Hugh Jackman's performance," 24 Apr. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'transpire.' 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 transpire

1597, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for transpire

Middle French transpirer, from Medieval Latin transpirare, from Latin trans- + spirare to breathe

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Time Traveler for transpire

Time Traveler

The first known use of transpire was in 1597

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Last Updated

20 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Transpire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for transpire


How to pronounce transpire (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of transpire

formal : to happen
formal : to become known
technical, of a plant : to have water evaporate from the surface of leaves


trans·​pire | \ trans-ˈpīr How to pronounce transpire (audio) \
transpired; transpiring

Kids Definition of transpire

1 : to come to pass : happen Important events transpired that day.
2 : to become known or apparent It transpired that they had met before.
3 : to give off water vapor through openings in the leaves

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