[ verb pri-sip-i-teyt; adjective, noun pri-sip-i-tit, -teyt ]
See synonyms for: precipitateprecipitatedprecipitating on

verb (used with object),pre·cip·i·tat·ed, pre·cip·i·tat·ing.
  1. to hasten the occurrence of; bring about prematurely, hastily, or suddenly: to precipitate an international crisis.

  2. to cast down headlong; fling or hurl down.

  1. to cast, plunge, or send, especially violently or abruptly: He precipitated himself into the struggle.

  2. Chemistry. to separate (a substance) in solid form from a solution, as by means of a reagent.

verb (used without object),pre·cip·i·tat·ed, pre·cip·i·tat·ing.
  1. Meteorology. to fall to the earth's surface as a condensed form of water; to rain, snow, hail, drizzle, etc.

  2. to separate from a solution as a precipitate.

  1. to be cast or thrown down headlong.

  1. headlong: a precipitate fall down the stairs.

  2. rushing headlong or rapidly onward.

  1. proceeding rapidly or with great haste: a precipitate retreat.

  2. exceedingly sudden or abrupt: a precipitate stop; a precipitate decision.

  3. done or made without sufficient deliberation; overhasty; rash: a precipitate marriage.

  1. Chemistry. a substance precipitated from a solution.

  2. moisture condensed in the form of rain, snow, etc.

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

word story For 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 for precipitate

Opposites for precipitate

Other words from precipitate

  • pre·cip·i·tate·ly, adverb
  • pre·cip·i·tate·ness, noun
  • pre·cip·i·ta·tive, adjective
  • pre·cip·i·ta·tor, noun
  • non·pre·cip·i·ta·tive, adjective
  • un·pre·cip·i·tate, adjective
  • un·pre·cip·i·tate·ly, adverb
  • un·pre·cip·i·tate·ness, noun
  • un·pre·cip·i·ta·tive, adjective
  • un·pre·cip·i·ta·tive·ly, adverb

Words that may be confused with precipitate Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use precipitate in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for precipitate


  1. (tr) to cause to happen too soon or sooner than expected; bring on

  2. to throw or fall from or as from a height

  1. to cause (moisture) to condense and fall as snow, rain, etc, or (of moisture, rain, etc) to condense and fall thus

  2. chem to undergo or cause to undergo a process in which a dissolved substance separates from solution as a fine suspension of solid particles

  1. rushing ahead

  2. done rashly or with undue haste

  1. sudden and brief

  1. chem a precipitated solid in its suspended form or after settling or filtering

Origin of precipitate

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

Derived forms of precipitate

  • precipitable, adjective
  • precipitability, noun
  • precipitately, adverb
  • precipitateness, noun
  • precipitative, adjective
  • precipitator, noun

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

Scientific definitions for precipitate


  1. To fall from the atmosphere as rain, snow, or another form of precipitation.

  1. To separate as a solid from a solution in chemical precipitation.

  1. 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.