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verb (used with object), pen·e·trat·ed, pen·e·trat·ing.
  1. to pierce or pass into or through: The bullet penetrated the wall. The fog lights penetrated the mist.
  2. to enter the interior of: to penetrate a forest.
  3. to enter and diffuse itself through; permeate.
  4. to arrive at the truth or meaning of; understand; comprehend: to penetrate a mystery.
  5. to obtain a share of (a market): to penetrate the Canadian coffee market.
  6. to affect or impress (the mind or feelings) deeply.
  7. to extend influence, usually peacefully, into the affairs of (another country).
verb (used without object), pen·e·trat·ed, pen·e·trat·ing.
  1. to enter, reach, or pass through something, as by piercing: We penetrated to the interior of the Kasbah.
  2. to be diffused through something.
  3. to understand or read the meaning of something.
  4. to have a deep effect or impact on someone.

Origin of penetrate

1520–30; < Latin penetrātus (past participle of penetrāre), equivalent to penet-, variant stem of penitus deep down + -r- (probably by analogy with intus inside: intrāre to enter) + -ātus + -ate1
Related formspen·e·tra·tor, nounpre·pen·e·trate, verb (used with object), pre·pen·e·trat·ed, pre·pen·e·trat·ing.un·pen·e·trat·ed, adjective

Synonyms for penetrate

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Synonym study

1. See pierce. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for penetrate

Contemporary Examples of penetrate

Historical Examples of penetrate

British Dictionary definitions for penetrate


  1. to find or force a way into or through (something); pierce; enter
  2. to diffuse through (a substance); permeate
  3. (tr) to see throughtheir eyes could not penetrate the fog
  4. (tr) (of a man) to insert the penis into the vagina of (a woman)
  5. (tr) to grasp the meaning of (a principle, etc)
  6. (intr) to be understoodhis face lit up as the new idea penetrated
Derived Formspenetrable, adjectivepenetrability, nounpenetrably, adverbpenetrative, adjectivepenetrator, noun

Word Origin for penetrate

C16: from Latin penetrāre; related to penitus inner, and penus the interior of a house
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 penetrate

1520s, from Latin penetratus, past participle of penetrare "to put or get into, enter into," related to penitus "within, inmost," penus "innermost part of a temple, store of food," penates "household gods." Related: Penetrated; penetrating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper