Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Propagate

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is propagate. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Propagate is used in contexts relating to biology to mean “to produce offspring,” and in general contexts to mean “to make (something, such as an idea or belief) known to or accepted by many people.” 

// The tree is readily propagated by grafting.

// The group’s members increasingly rely on social media to propagate their ideas.

PROPAGATE in Context

“The Michigan birds were allowed to propagate, and when flocks became large enough, some would be live-trapped and moved elsewhere in the state to propagate further, and more turkeys were obtained from other states, such as Iowa.” — Tom Lounsbury, The Manistee (Michigan) News Advocate, 17 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

The origins of propagate are firmly rooted in the field of horticulture. The word is a 16th century Latin borrowing, ultimately from the verb propagare, which means “to set (onto a plant) a small shoot or twig cut for planting or grafting.” The word’s meaning quickly extended from the realm of the farm and field to less material kinds of reproduction, such as the spreading of ideas and beliefs. The similarity between propagate and propaganda is not coincidental; that word also comes to us from propagare, although it took a nmore circuitous route.

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