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Origin of precipitate

First recorded in 1520–30; the verb and adjective derive from Latin praecipitātus (past participle of praecipitāre “to cast down headlong”), equivalent to praecipit- (stem of praeceps “steep”; see precipice) + -ātus past participle suffix (see -ate1); the noun comes from New Latin praecipitātum “a precipitate,” noun use of neuter of praecipitātus

historical usage of precipitate

The verb precipitate comes from Latin praecipitāt-, the past participle stem of praecipitāre “to fall headlong, leap down, hurl or throw down, throw overboard,” a derivative of the adjective praeceps (stem praecipit- ) “falling headlong, impetuous (in action), advanced in age, declining, abrupt, sudden.” Praeceps is formed from the adverb, preposition, and prefix prae, prae- “in front, ahead” and -ceps (stem -cepit- ), a combining form of caput (stem capit- ) “head”; praeceps literally means “headfirst.”
The chemical sense of precipitate, “to separate (a substance) in solid form from a solution,” first appears in New Latin praecipitāre at the end of the 15th century, and is first recorded in English in the 17th century. The related meteorological sense “to fall to earth as rain, snow, hail, or drizzle” dates from the end of the 18th century.

OTHER WORDS FROM precipitate


precipitate , precipitous
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022

How to use precipitate in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for precipitate


verb (prɪˈsɪpɪˌteɪt)
adjective (prɪˈsɪpɪtɪt)
noun (prɪˈsɪpɪtɪt)
chem a precipitated solid in its suspended form or after settling or filtering

Derived forms of precipitate

Word Origin for precipitate

C16: from Latin praecipitāre to throw down headlong, from praeceps headlong, steep, from prae before, in front + caput head
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

Medical definitions for precipitate

[ prĭ-sĭpĭ-tāt′, -tĭt ]

A solid or solid phase separated from a solution.
A punctate opacity on the posterior surface of the cornea developing from inflammatory cells in the vitreous body.punctate keratitis
To cause a solid substance to be separated from a solution.
To be separated from a solution as a solid.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Scientific definitions for precipitate


To fall from the atmosphere as rain, snow, or another form of precipitation.
To separate as a solid from a solution in chemical precipitation.
(prĭ-sĭpĭ-tāt′, -tĭt)
A solid material precipitated from a solution.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Cultural definitions for precipitate

[ (pri-sip-uh-tayt, pri-sip-uh-tuht) ]

In chemistry, a solid material that is formed in a solution by chemical reactions and settles to the bottom of the container in which the reaction takes place. A precipitate may also be a substance removed from another by an artificial filter.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.