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From Latin penētrātus, past participle of penētrō (to put, set, or place within, enter, pierce, penetrate), from penes (within, with) by analogy to intrō (to go in, enter).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈpɛnɪtɹeɪt/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈpɛnɪˌtɹeɪt/, /ˈpɛnəˌtɹeɪt/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: pen‧e‧trate


penetrate (third-person singular simple present penetrates, present participle penetrating, simple past and past participle penetrated)

  1. To enter into; to make way into the interior of; to pierce.
    Light penetrates darkness.
    • 1879, Th Du Moncel, The Telephone, the Microphone and the Phonograph, Harper, page 166:
      He takes the prepared charcoal used by artists, brings it to a white heat, and suddenly plunges it in a bath of mercury, of which the globules instantly penetrate the pores of charcoal, and may be said to metallize it.
  2. (figuratively) To achieve understanding of, despite some obstacle; to comprehend; to understand.
    I could not penetrate Burke's opaque rhetoric.
    • Ray
      things which here were too subtile for us to penetrate
  3. To affect profoundly through the senses or feelings; to move deeply.
    to penetrate one's heart with pity
    • M. Arnold
      The translator of Homer should penetrate himself with a sense of the plainness and directness of Homer's style.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Shakespeare to this entry?)
  4. To infiltrate an enemy to gather intelligence.
  5. To insert the penis into an opening, such as a vagina or anus. (Can we add an example for this sense?)
  6. (chess) This term needs a definition. Please help out and add a definition, then remove the text {{rfdef}}.

Derived termsEdit


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Further readingEdit





  1. present adverbial passive participle of penetri