[verb pur-kuh-leyt; noun pur-kuh-lit, -leyt]
See more synonyms for percolate on
verb (used with object), per·co·lat·ed, per·co·lat·ing.
  1. to cause (a liquid) to pass through a porous body; filter.
  2. (of a liquid) to filter through; permeate.
  3. to brew (coffee) in a percolator.
verb (used without object), per·co·lat·ed, per·co·lat·ing.
  1. to pass through a porous substance; filter; ooze; seep; trickle.
  2. to become percolated: The coffee is starting to percolate.
  3. to become active, lively, or spirited.
  4. to show activity, movement, or life; grow or spread gradually; germinate: Interest in the idea has begun to percolate.
  1. a percolated liquid.

Origin of percolate

1620–30; < Latin percōlātus, past participle of percōlāre to filter. See per-, colander, -ate1
Related formsper·co·la·ble, adjectiveper·co·la·tive, adjectiveun·per·co·lat·ed, adjective

Pronunciation note

The pronunciation of percolate as [pur-kyuh-leyt] /ˈpɜr kyəˌleɪt/, with an intrusive y -glide, results from analogy with words like circulate and matriculate, where the unstressed vowel following the k -sound is symbolized by a u spelling, making the y -glide mandatory. In similar words where [k] /k/ is followed by some other vowel, the [y] /y/ represents a hypercorrection. The pronunciation of escalate as [es-kyuh-leyt] /ˈɛs kyəˌleɪt/ is another such example. See coupon, new. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

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Contemporary Examples of percolate

Historical Examples of percolate

British Dictionary definitions for percolate


verb (ˈpɜːkəˌleɪt)
  1. to cause (a liquid) to pass through a fine mesh, porous substance, etc, or (of a liquid) to pass through a fine mesh, porous substance, etc; tricklerain percolated through the roof
  2. to permeate; penetrate graduallywater percolated the road
  3. (intr) US informal to become active or livelyshe percolated with happiness
  4. to make (coffee) or (of coffee) to be made in a percolator
noun (ˈpɜːkəlɪt, -ˌleɪt)
  1. a product of percolation
Derived Formspercolable (ˈpɜːkələbəl), adjectivepercolation, nounpercolative, adjective

Word Origin for percolate

C17: from Latin percolāre, from per + cōlāre to strain, from cōlum a strainer; see colander
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 percolate

1620s, a back-formation from percolation, or else from Latin percolatus, past participle of percolare "to strain through." Figurative sense by 1670s. Related: Percolated; percolating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

percolate in Medicine


  1. To cause a liquid to pass slowly through a porous substance or small holes; filter.
  2. To drain or seep through.
  3. To cause a solvent liquid to pass through a mixture, such as a powdered drug, so as to extract the soluble portion.
  1. A liquid that has been percolated.
Related formsper′co•lation n.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.