1 : to reproduce or cause to reproduce biologically : multiply
2 : to cause to spread out and affect a greater number or greater area : extend
3 : to pass along to offspring
4 : to foster growing knowledge of, familiarity with, or acceptance of (such as an idea or belief) : publicize
Did You Know?
The origins of propagate are firmly rooted in the field of horticulture. The word was borrowed into English in the 16th century from Latin propagatus, the past participle of the verb propagare, which means "to set (onto a plant) a small shoot or twig cut for planting or grafting." Propagare, in turn, derives from propages, meaning "layer (of a plant), slip, offspring." It makes sense, therefore, that the earliest uses of propagate referred to facilitating reproduction of a plant or animal. Nowadays, however, the meaning of propagate extends to the "reproduction" of something intangible, such as an idea or belief. Incidentally, propaganda also comes to us from propagare, although it took a somewhat different route into English.
"It is always observable that silence propagates itself, and that the longer talk has been suspended, the more difficult it is to find any thing to say." — Samuel Johnson, The Adventurer, 25 Aug. 1753
"… Jonathan Anderson … wonders if he could propagate a honeysuckle-scented yellow azalea that is blooming around an early Georgian garden temple…." — Hamish Bowles, Vogue, August 2017
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
Fill in the blanks to complete a word for a place from which a specified type of person or thing propagates: _ em _ n _ _ y.VIEW THE ANSWER
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