See also: penetrãte

English edit

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Etymology edit

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).

Pronunciation edit

  • IPA(key): /ˈpɛnɪtɹeɪt/, /ˈpɛnətɹeɪt/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: pen‧e‧trate

Verb edit

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.
    • 1978 November, H. E. Read [et al.], “Preface”, in CAPRI: A Two-dimensional Eulerian Code for Analyzing the Impact of Highly Deformable Projectiles into Rock: Final Report for Period 15 November 1975 – 30 September 1976 (DNA 4751F), Washington, D.C.: Defense Nuclear Agency, →OCLC, page 7:
      Considerable interest has developed within the defense community during recent years in weapons that are capable of penetrating some distance into the earth before detonating. [] To be generally effective, earth penetrating weapons (EPW) must be capable of penetrating various geologic targets, ranging from soil to rock, without producing critical damage to the payload.
    • 2013, Space Babies[1]:
      and they, ... they .... fly though space, and they penetrate the atmosphere [] after an amazing nine-month journey
  2. (figuratively) To achieve understanding of, despite some obstacle; to comprehend; to understand.
    I could not penetrate Burke's opaque rhetoric.
    • 1691, John Ray, The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of the Creation. [], London: [] Samuel Smith, [], →OCLC:
      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
  4. To infiltrate an enemy to gather intelligence.
  5. To insert the penis into an orifice, such as a vagina, mouth, or anus.
    a male elephant comes up and penetrates the female
    • 2005, Patricia Vettel-Becker, Shooting from the hip: photography, masculinity, and postwar America:
      His weapons have been destroyed; his body has been or can be penetrated. In other words, he is rapable.
  6. (chess) To move a piece past the defending pieces of one's opponent.

Usage notes edit

The sexual sense is a modern innovation rarely attested in older writing. In modern usage, the unaccompanied word penetrate and its derivatives often refer to sexual penetration, outside of certain set phrases such as market penetration.

Derived terms edit

Related terms edit

Translations edit

Further reading edit

Esperanto edit

Pronunciation edit

Verb edit


  1. present adverbial passive participle of penetri

Italian edit

Etymology 1 edit

Verb edit


  1. inflection of penetrare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative

Etymology 2 edit

Participle edit

penetrate f pl

  1. feminine plural of penetrato

Latin edit

Verb edit


  1. second-person plural present active imperative of penetrō

Spanish edit

Verb edit


  1. second-person singular voseo imperative of penetrar combined with te