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 Virus safety practices, capacity limits, and other changes will be in place, but many events in 2021 are slated to transpire in the way that’s fundamentally familiar: in person. Zachary Lewis, cleveland, "Chautauqua Institution plans hybrid summer with both live and virtual elements," 5 Apr. 2021 But, as is often the case, life did not transpire in perfect synchronicity. Victoria Lamson, Marie Claire, "Friendship, Infertility & Moving Forward," 22 Mar. 2021 Thursday said they were deeply conflicted about whether to resign, fearing what would transpire if Trump was left surrounded in his final days on the job only by those who encouraged his worse instincts. Aamer Madhani, Star Tribune, "Stay or go? After Trump-fueled riot, aides debate early exit," 8 Jan. 2021 Already drama is expected to transpire over Kim and Kanye’s current family home in Calabasas, California. Kelly Corbett, House Beautiful, "Kim Kardashian and Kanye West's Calabasas House Raises Major Settlement Concern if Couple Divorces," 6 Jan. 2021 While that didn’t transpire, when the W.H.A. merged with the N.H.L. in 1979, three of the four teams the N.H.L. absorbed were based in Canada: the Quebec Nordiques, the Edmonton Oilers and the Winnipeg Jets. New York Times, "Upcoming N.H.L. Season Will Have Flashes of Other Difficult Eras," 1 Jan. 2021 Some astrologers predicted a worldwide cataclysm—which, needless to say, did not transpire. Dan Falk, Science, "In rare sky show, Jupiter and Saturn will nearly 'touch' on the winter solstice," 14 Dec. 2020 As Elle reports, however, that didn't quite transpire. Emily Dixon, Marie Claire, "Joe Alwyn Co-Wrote 3 Songs on Taylor Swift's Surprise New Album 'Evermore'," 11 Dec. 2020 Just imagine what terrible things could transpire if people started using the internet to discuss politics. New York Times, "Watch This Disgusting Food Video Right Now. It Explains Everything.," 9 Oct. 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

10 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Transpire.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for transpire



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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