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penetrate Syllabification: pen·e·trate
Pronunciation: /ˈpenəˌtrāt/

Definition of penetrate in English:


[with object]
1Succeed in forcing a way into or through (a thing): the shrapnel had penetrated his head and chest [no object]: tunnels that penetrate deep into the earth’s core
More example sentences
  • That was the last thing I remembered before a familiar voice penetrated my unconsciousness.
  • The 16-year-old had a lock-knife thrust into him with such force it penetrated his chest and hit a lung.
  • An important role in destroying an enemy force that has penetrated the defense is played by the ambush party.
1.1(Of a man) insert the penis into the vagina or anus of (a sexual partner).
Example sentences
  • There is no reason why a heterosexual male's anus cannot also be penetrated by his female partner.
  • When the man penetrates the woman, his penis is sheathed by the membrane.
  • There are two women in a drunken embrace, and a man penetrating a woman like a caged dog finally released to prey.
1.2Infiltrate (an enemy group or rival organization) in order to spy on it: they feared that their council had been penetrated by informers
More example sentences
  • New Orleans was perhaps distinctive in the extreme savagery of its ghettos, and the inability of civic organizations to penetrate poor areas.
  • All of the aid in the world cannot penetrate political systems which are rife with corruption and nepotism.
  • They could be exploits that would allow military intelligence to penetrate military systems.
infiltrate, slip into, sneak into, insinuate oneself into
1.3(Of a company) begin to sell its products in (a particular market or area): Honda has succeeded in penetrating Western motorcycle markets
More example sentences
  • Determine how this initiative is going to help your firm make more money, sell more products, penetrate new markets, or increase shareholder wealth.
  • In the first quarter of this year, the order placement from China increased to around 120,000 tons partly because the company stressed penetrating the Chinese market.
  • Many low-grade products are penetrating the Thai market and were popular among local people because of lower prices.
1.4Succeed in understanding or gaining insight into (something complex or mysterious): a magician who seemed to have penetrated the mysteries of nature
More example sentences
  • Those of us who have tried to penetrate the often baffling complexities of modern music have often had cause to be grateful to him for unravelling its mysteries.
  • I felt I had finally penetrated William's menacing mask and gained some understanding of the workings of his mind.
  • The key often symbolizes a mystery about to be penetrated or a stage on our pathway to discovery and enlightenment.
1.5 [no object] Be fully understood or realized by someone: as his words penetrated, she saw a mental picture of him with Dawn
More example sentences
  • The cold anger Geoff felt was pushed aside by concern as her words penetrated.
  • Mel echoed, letting the words slowly penetrate.
  • She's pretty, he thinks unexpectedly, but the thought is lost as her words penetrate.
register, sink in, be understood, be comprehended, become clear, fall into place
informal click


Mid 16th century: from Latin penetrat- 'placed or gone into', from the verb penetrare; related to penitus 'inner'.

Definition of penetrate in:
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