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[in-kyuh-beyt, ing-] /ˈɪn kyəˌbeɪt, ˈɪŋ-/
verb (used with object), incubated, incubating.
to sit upon (eggs) for the purpose of hatching.
to hatch (eggs), as by sitting upon them or by artificial heat.
to maintain at a favorable temperature and in other conditions promoting development, as cultures of bacteria or prematurely born infants.
to develop or produce as if by hatching; give form to:
His brain was incubating schemes for raising money.
verb (used without object), incubated, incubating.
to sit upon eggs.
to undergo incubation.
to develop; grow; take form:
A plan was slowly incubating in her mind.
Origin of incubate
1635-45; < Latin incubātus past participle of incubāre to lie or recline on, to sit on (eggs), equivalent to in- in-2 + cub(āre) to sit, lie down + -ātus -ate1; cf. incumbent, concubine
Related forms
incubative, adjective
unincubated, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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British Dictionary definitions for incubate


(of birds) to supply (eggs) with heat for their development, esp by sitting on them
to cause (eggs, embryos, bacteria, etc) to develop, esp in an incubator or culture medium
(intransitive) (of eggs, embryos, bacteria, etc) to develop in favourable conditions, esp in an incubator
(intransitive) (of disease germs) to remain inactive in an animal or human before causing disease
to develop or cause to develop gradually; foment or be fomented
Derived Forms
incubation, noun
incubational, adjective
incubative, incubatory, adjective
Word Origin
C18: from Latin incubāre to lie upon, hatch, from in-² + cubāre to lie down
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for incubate

1640s, "to brood upon, watch jealously" (which also was a figurative sense of Latin incubare); 1721 as "to sit on eggs to hatch them," from Latin incubatus, past participle of incubare "to lie in or upon" (see incubation). Related: Incubated; incubating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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incubate in Medicine

incubate in·cu·bate (ĭn'kyə-bāt', ĭng'-)
v. in·cu·bat·ed, in·cu·bat·ing, in·cu·bates

  1. To maintain eggs, organisms, or living tissue at optimal environmental conditions for growth and development.

  2. To maintain a chemical or biochemical system under specific conditions in order to promote a particular reaction.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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incubate in Science
  1. The act of warming eggs in order to hatch them, as by a bird sitting upon a clutch of eggs in a nest.

  2. The act of keeping an organism, a cell, or cell culture in conditions favorable for growth and development.

  3. The maintenance of an infant, especially one that is ill or born before the usual gestation period, in an environment of controlled temperature, humidity, and oxygen concentration in order to provide optimal conditions for growth and development.

  4. The development of an infection from the time the pathogen enters the body until signs or symptoms first appear.

incubate verb
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary
Copyright © 2002. Published by Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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