Definition of incubate in English:



  • 1with object (of a bird) sit on (eggs) in order to keep them warm and bring them to hatching.

    • ‘Both male and female birds incubate the three to four eggs for about 21 days.’
    • ‘Only female hummingbirds are involved in parental care; they must incubate eggs, brood young hatchlings, and feed the chicks as nestlings and fledglings.’
    • ‘This co-operative behaviour, in which one chicken incubates the eggs of others to whom she's probably related, has clear biological advantages.’
    • ‘Females build the nest, incubate eggs, and brood nestlings, but both sexes choose the nest site and feed offspring.’
    • ‘Ten birds incubating eggs were captured every seven days in each year.’
    • ‘At home in the far north, they rear their families in great haste while the land enjoys its brief sunny respite; the eggs are incubated and the fledglings weaned in less than a month.’
    • ‘However, in most bird species where both sexes share incubating the eggs or feeding the young, a cuckolded male can reduce his share of parental care and the female will pick up the slack.’
    • ‘Like the eggs of birds, monotreme eggs are incubated and hatched outside the body of the mother.’
    • ‘In monogamous species, both the male and female build the nest, incubate eggs, brood young and feed nestlings and fledglings.’
    • ‘The eggs are incubated and hatch inside the female's body.’
    • ‘Only if we notice that a bird is unable to incubate the egg is it then put in an incubator.’
    • ‘Both male and female kingfishers incubate the eggs, which take 2 to 4 weeks to hatch.’
    • ‘He even tricked females into laying extra eggs by removing new ones from nests, then bolstered the bird's numbers by incubating these eggs in captivity and releasing mature offspring.’
    • ‘When most birds incubate eggs, the females often produce high levels of prolactin, a hormone involved in parental behavior.’
    • ‘Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and bringing food to the chicks.’
    • ‘Shortly thereafter, the female travels over the ice to the open sea to feed, leaving the male to incubate the egg. About two months later she will return to feed and raise the newly-hatched chick.’
    • ‘The male emu incubates the eggs alone and accompanies the chicks for up to eighteen months of age.’
    • ‘Each female lays a single egg, which the male bird incubates; the chicks remain in their nests for eight to ten months before they are fully fledged.’
    • ‘The male brings food and incubates the eggs when the female leaves the nest to eat.’
    • ‘The female builds the nest, incubates the eggs, and feeds the young on her own.’
    brood, sit on, cover
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    1. 1.1 (in a laboratory or other controlled situation) keep (eggs, bacteria, embryos, etc.) at a suitable temperature so that they develop.
      ‘the samples were incubated at 80°C for 3 minutes’
      • ‘Control was carried out incubating the sections with the exoglucanase-gold complex previously adsorbed with 5 mg ml - 1 of commercial substrate, ß- D-glucans from barley.’
      • ‘Pairs of test and control samples were incubated either in the darkness or under continuous illumination with white light.’
      • ‘The sample was incubated at room temperature for 4 weeks and the modifications of the secondary structure were monitored by CD while corresponding samples were mounted for electron microscopy.’
      • ‘The embryos were then incubated for 24 hr at 25° and counted again.’
      • ‘The period for which the flies were kept at 29° and the temperature at which the embryos were laid and incubated are indicated above the dot blots.’
      • ‘The resulting embryos were incubated in 750 ml Zuger bottles at a constant temperature of 28.2 0.2°C until yolk sac resorption.’
      • ‘Thirty embryos per sample were incubated for 2 hr at 25°, frozen in liquid nitrogen, and low molecular weight DNA was isolated as described.’
      • ‘Embryos were incubated with primary antibody overnight at 4° with gentle agitation.’
      • ‘Incubators were set at the temperatures indicated, and in all cases plates at different temperatures were incubated in parallel.’
      • ‘The embryos are incubated in the laboratory for an additional two to four days and transferred to the female partner's uterus.’
      • ‘The formation of this peak increases with irradiation time when the mitochondria are incubated under control conditions and present high membrane potentials.’
      • ‘Explants were incubated at different temperatures (°C) after bombardment and analysed for reporter-gene expression.’
      • ‘The tubes were incubated at ambient temperature.’
      • ‘Control cells were incubated without test sample and with DMSO.’
      • ‘The Petri dishes with embryos were incubated at 30°C in the dark.’
      • ‘Other embryos were incubated directly in the Petri dishes for germination at a range of different temperatures.’
      • ‘The homogenate was incubated at room temperature for 5 min with agitation and then supplemented with 6 ml of chloroform.’
      • ‘The so-called ‘primary males’ can be produced at high frequency in the laboratory by incubating developing embryos at temperatures between 18° and 20°.’
      • ‘Appropriate negative and reagent controls were run by incubating nontumor tissue specimens, usually muscle, from surrounding areas of 15 tumor samples and human testis tissues with the probe or no probe, respectively.’
      • ‘Protein synthesis inhibition was performed by incubating plantlets at normal temperature and in the presence of 100 g ml - 1 cycloheximide.’
    2. 1.2North American Give support and aid the development of (a new small business).
      • ‘But, in hindsight, the whole process of incubating the business within Nortel still gave us a good shot at getting rich.’
      • ‘Innovation is running rampant in this whole arena, and new businesses are being incubated at a rate never seen before in the industry.’
      • ‘Whether they're funneling talent to start-up firms or the country's largest corporations, companies known for incubating tomorrow's CEOs maintain a virtuous circle composed of four equally crucial and interrelated steps.’
      • ‘The Hong Kong subsidiary will help bring Japanese affiliates of Hikari Tsushin into Asia and incubate them by providing localization support, he added.’
      • ‘Speaking more generally about the South East Enterprise Platform Programme, Mr. Nolan said it provided an exceptional base for incubating new businesses.’
  • 2be incubating somethingBe developing an infectious disease before symptoms appear.

    ‘the possibility that she was incubating early syphilis’
    • ‘What about the patient who either withholds this information, does not know his or her health status, or might be incubating an infection without any signs or symptoms?’
    • ‘Anyone who has not had measles or who hasn't been vaccinated and has been in contact with someone who actually has the disease or is incubating it.’
    • ‘Best Mate did not look himself before the race, and in retrospect he should not have taken part, especially as we now know that he was incubating an infection and started to cough on the way home.’
    • ‘Matthew had still been incubating the disease when he gave blood and my heart goes out to the people who were given it.’
    • ‘This could indicate rapidly and accurately whether a flock or herd has contracted the disease or is incubating it.’
    1. 2.1no object Develop slowly without outward or perceptible signs.
      ‘the BSE bug incubates for around three years’
      • ‘From there, it had two years to travel the world, incubating and mutating, slowly changing its antigens to take on a more dangerous form.’
      • ‘It's just a low-level bug that takes two or three days to incubate and two or three days to get over it.’
      • ‘Malignant cells incubated with nanoshells and exposed to the light source showed signs of irreversible heat damage and cell death, but control cells were left undamaged.’
      • ‘Particularly when you realize that the food has been cooked to your order, not just fished out of a large pot that has been slowly incubating for the past four hours.’
      • ‘Sometimes the salad is kept in plastic bags where bugs incubate under artificial supermarket display lights.’


Mid 17th century: from Latin incubat- ‘lain on’, from the verb incubare, from in- ‘upon’ + cubare ‘to lie’.