able or tending to penetrate; piercing; sharp: a penetrating shriek; a penetrating glance.
acute; discerning: a penetrating observation.
Surgery. noting a wound that pierces the skin, especially a deep wound entering an organ or body cavity.

Also penetrant.

Origin of penetrating

First recorded in 1590–1600; penetrate + -ing2
Related formspen·e·trat·ing·ly, adverbpen·e·trat·ing·ness, nounnon·pen·e·trat·ing, adjectiveun·pen·e·trat·ing, adjectiveun·pen·e·trat·ing·ly, adverb

Synonyms for penetrating

2. keen, sharp. See acute.

Antonyms for penetrating

1. blunt. 2. obtuse.



verb (used with object), pen·e·trat·ed, pen·e·trat·ing.

to pierce or pass into or through: The bullet penetrated the wall. The fog lights penetrated the mist.
to enter the interior of: to penetrate a forest.
to enter and diffuse itself through; permeate.
to arrive at the truth or meaning of; understand; comprehend: to penetrate a mystery.
to obtain a share of (a market): to penetrate the Canadian coffee market.
to affect or impress (the mind or feelings) deeply.
to extend influence, usually peacefully, into the affairs of (another country).

verb (used without object), pen·e·trat·ed, pen·e·trat·ing.

to enter, reach, or pass through something, as by piercing: We penetrated to the interior of the Kasbah.
to be diffused through something.
to understand or read the meaning of something.
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

Synonym study

1. See pierce. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for penetrating

Contemporary Examples of penetrating

Historical Examples of penetrating

  • And have you not before now said, that nothing is so penetrating as the eye of a lover who has vanity?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

  • It was a luxury so penetrating and powerful that it affected him like an opiate.

    The Rock of Chickamauga

    Joseph A. Altsheler

  • He was losing all assurance, both fear and rage were penetrating him.

  • With his death from the penetrating gas, something had gone wrong with the engine.

  • They left the choice to her penetrating wit, and her tried discretion.


    William Godwin

British Dictionary definitions for penetrating



tending to or able to penetratea penetrating mind; a penetrating voice
Derived Formspenetratingly, adverb



to find or force a way into or through (something); pierce; enter
to diffuse through (a substance); permeate
(tr) to see throughtheir eyes could not penetrate the fog
(tr) (of a man) to insert the penis into the vagina of (a woman)
(tr) to grasp the meaning of (a principle, etc)
(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 penetrating

"touching the feelings intensely," 1630s, figurative present participle adjective from penetrate (v.).



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