[verb ahy-suh-leyt; noun, adjective ahy-suh-lit, -leyt]
See more synonyms for isolate on
verb (used with object), i·so·lat·ed, i·so·lat·ing.
  1. to set or place apart; detach or separate so as to be alone.
  2. Medicine/Medical. to keep (an infected person) from contact with noninfected persons; quarantine.
  3. Chemistry, Bacteriology. to obtain (a substance or microorganism) in an uncombined or pure state.
  4. Electricity. to insulate.
  5. Television. to single out (a person, action, etc.) for a camera closeup.
  1. a person, thing, or group that is set apart or isolated, as for purposes of study.
  2. Psychology. a person, often shy or lacking in social skills, who avoids the company of others and has no friends within a group.
  3. Biology. an inbreeding population that is isolated from similar populations by physiological, behavioral, or geographic barriers.
  4. Also called language isolate. Linguistics. a language with no demonstrable genetic relationship, as Basque.
  5. something that has been isolated, as a by-product in a manufacturing process: an isolate of soy flour.
  1. isolated; alone.

Origin of isolate

First recorded in 1800–10; back formation from isolated
Related formsi·so·la·tor, nounre·i·so·late, verb (used with object), re·i·so·lat·ed, re·i·so·lat·ing.un·i·so·late, verb (used with object), un·i·so·lat·ed, un·i·so·lat·ing. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for isolate

Contemporary Examples of isolate

Historical Examples of isolate

  • But we do not isolate the comic personage as we do the solitary, tragic figure.

  • Like Hermione, he wished to isolate Vere, to preserve her as she was in character.

    A Spirit in Prison

    Robert Hichens

  • The winter seemed to isolate them from the world still more.

    His Masterpiece

    Emile Zola

  • You see, I've had to be careful—not to isolate you from life—life as it is.

    The World Beyond

    Raymond King Cummings

  • It seeks to isolate itself from matter and sense, and to assert its independence in thought.

British Dictionary definitions for isolate


verb (ˈaɪsəˌleɪt) (tr)
  1. to place apart; cause to be alone
  2. med to quarantine (a person or animal) having or suspected of having a contagious disease
  3. to obtain (a compound) in an uncombined form
  4. to obtain pure cultures of (bacteria, esp those causing a particular disease)
  5. electronics to prevent interaction between (circuits, components, etc); insulate
noun (ˈaɪsəlɪt)
  1. an isolated person or group
Derived Formsisolable, adjectiveisolability, nounisolator, noun

Word Origin for isolate

C19: back formation from isolated, via Italian from Latin insulātus, literally: made into an island; see insulate
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

Word Origin and History for isolate

by 1786, a new formation from isolated (q.v.).

The translation of this work is well performed, excepting that fault from which few translations are wholly exempt, and which is daily tending to corrupt our language, the adoption of French expressions. We have here evasion for escape, twice or more times repeated; brigands very frequently; we have the unnecessary and foolish word isolate; and, if we mistake not, paralize, which at least has crept in through a similar channel. Translators cannot be too careful on this point, as it is a temptation to which they are constantly exposed. ["The British Critic," April 1799]

As a noun from 1890, from earlier adjectival use (1819).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

isolate in Medicine


  1. To set apart or cut off from others.
  2. To place in quarantine.
  3. To separate a pure strain from a mixed bacterial or fungal culture.
  4. To separate or remove a chemical substance out of a combined mixture.
  5. To separate experiences or memories from the emotions relating to them.
  1. A bacterial or fungal strain that has been isolated.
Related formsiso•la′tor n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.