verb tran·spire \ tran(t)-ˈspī(-ə)r \
|Updated on: 18 Aug 2018

Definition of transpire

transpired; transpiring
1 : to take place : go on, occur
2 a : 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
: 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'?

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.

Examples of transpire in a Sentence

  1. No one will soon forget the historic events that transpired on that day.

  2. A plant transpires more freely on a hot dry day.

  3. Trees transpire water at a rapid rate.

Recent Examples of transpire from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of transpire

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

TRANSPIRE Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of transpire for English Language Learners

  • : to happen

  • : to become known

  • of a plant : to have water evaporate from the surface of leaves

TRANSPIRE Defined for Kids


verb trans·pire \ trans-ˈpīr \

Definition of transpire for Students

transpired; transpiring
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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fullness to the point of excess

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