pro·​lif·​er·​ate | \ prə-ˈli-fə-ˌrāt How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \
proliferated; proliferating

Essential Meaning of proliferate

: to increase in number or amount quickly New problems have proliferated in recent months. [=many new problems have occurred in recent months]

Full Definition of proliferate

intransitive verb

1 : to grow by rapid production of new parts, cells, buds, or offspring
2 : to increase in number as if by proliferating : multiply

transitive verb

1 : to cause to grow by proliferating
2 : to cause to increase in number or extent as if by proliferating

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Other Words from proliferate

proliferation \ prə-​ˌli-​fə-​ˈrā-​shən How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \ noun
proliferative \ prə-​ˈli-​fə-​ˌrā-​tiv How to pronounce proliferate (audio) , prə-​ˈli-​f(ə-​)rə-​tiv How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \ adjective

Did you know?

Proliferate came about in 1873 as a back-formation of "proliferation." That means that "proliferation" came first (we borrowed it from French in the 1850s) and was later shortened to form the verb "proliferate." Ultimately these terms come from Latin. The French adjective prolifère ("reproducing freely") comes from the Latin noun proles and the Latin combining form "-fer." Proles means "offspring" or "descendants," and -fer means "bearing." Both of these Latin forms gave rise to numerous other English words. "Prolific" and "proletarian" ultimately come from "proles"; "aquifer" and words ending in "-ferous" have their roots in "-fer."

Examples of proliferate in a Sentence

rumors about the incident proliferated on the Internet
Recent Examples on the Web As technology-dependent remote workers proliferate, new solutions are coming to the fore that may make both in-person and virtual meetings more productive. Annie Brown, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2021 Apple and Google's resistance to Russian takedown orders bought time for the Navalny app to proliferate before the election. Lily Hay Newman, Wired, 17 Sep. 2021 Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC from 2013 to 2017, said the Biden administration needs to sharpen the agency’s focus on security as 5G networks proliferate and enable much larger transmissions of data. David Uberti, WSJ, 19 Aug. 2021 Many Democrats blame the company for allowing misleading content to proliferate. Ryan Tracy, WSJ, 30 Sep. 2021 And the reason the gap is there is because software and the knowledge about sovereign algorithms proliferate very quickly. Saahil Desai, The Atlantic, 27 Sep. 2021 As solar panels, electric vehicles, household batteries, and smart thermostats proliferate and go online, utilities are experimenting with new ways for people to pay for power. Michael J. Coren, Quartz, 14 Sep. 2021 While vaccinated people appear to be getting far less sick from infections, the superior powers of the Delta variant are allowing the virus to proliferate in their systems and to spread, lethally, to the unvaccinated. New York Times, 1 Aug. 2021 As new devices proliferate, attacks leveraging machine identities are on the rise. Kevin Bocek, Forbes, 6 July 2021

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

1866, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for proliferate

back-formation from proliferation, from French prolifération, from proliférer to proliferate, from prolifère reproducing freely, from Latin proles + -fer -ferous

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Time Traveler for proliferate

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The first known use of proliferate was in 1866

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Last Updated

18 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Proliferate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for proliferate


pro·​lif·​er·​ate | \ prə-ˈlif-ə-ˌrāt How to pronounce proliferate (audio) \
proliferated; proliferating

Medical Definition of proliferate

intransitive verb

: to grow by rapid production of new parts, cells, buds, or offspring

transitive verb

: to cause to grow by proliferating

More from Merriam-Webster on proliferate

Nglish: Translation of proliferate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of proliferate for Arabic Speakers


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