Definition of precipitate in English:



  • 1Cause (an event or situation, typically one that is undesirable) to happen suddenly, unexpectedly, or prematurely.

    ‘the incident precipitated a political crisis’
    • ‘Unless the councillors who precipitated this unwise move are to be surcharged, and I doubt this will be the case, the rate-payers will be expected to foot the bill for the separation.’
    • ‘The move was precipitated by a slowdown in the housing market in the company's traditional north-east of Scotland heartland, which has been blighted by uncertainty in the oil industry.’
    • ‘Aggressors in the past, relying on our apparent lack of military force, have unwisely precipitated war.’
    • ‘His move to Ayrshire was precipitated by a failed six-week strike in the Lanarkshire coalfield in 1880.’
    • ‘Two events had precipitated this change in course.’
    • ‘Nine years later, it was forced to retreat, precipitating the collapse of the Soviet Union.’
    • ‘He said: ‘It appears that the death was precipitated by these stressful events which caused him to collapse.’’
    • ‘This immediately precipitated resumption of the civil war with disillusioned southern forces now certain that the north had no intention of constructing a secular democratic state.’
    • ‘We had jokingly warned the audience that earlier public airings of the song (and even, on occasion, just singing it in the lounge room at home) had precipitated unanticipated falls of rain.’
    • ‘Retail trade fell, precipitating a drop in wages and retrenchments.’
    • ‘This was known as the ‘Cloudbuster’ device, and it was sold to several US state governments to precipitate rain.’
    • ‘Over the years, these works have precipitated some of the most moving moments in the class.’
    • ‘How's that been and what precipitated the move?’
    • ‘The move has been precipitated by concerns that a general election could be held in a matter of months.’
    • ‘Will our relationship pass the test or will the new situation precipitate a change for the worse?’
    • ‘After the mutiny of April 1944, which precipitated a confrontation with British forces, much of it was interned.’
    • ‘The third of these voyages precipitated a series of clashes with Spanish forces, sometimes authorized by London and sometimes not, as the English battled for trade and gold.’
    • ‘I kept the correspondence but I thought it has been destroyed in the apartment fire that precipitated my move to the condo.’
    • ‘Loss of public confidence underlay the financial and political crisis which precipitated the downfall of a system of government too little changed in its habits and priorities since the days of Louis XIV.’
    • ‘Sicily suffered a series of agricultural crises, which precipitated a sharp drop in the grain and citrus markets.’
    bring about, bring on, cause, lead to, occasion, give rise to, trigger, spark, touch off, provoke, hasten, accelerate, expedite, speed up, advance, quicken, push forward, further, instigate, induce
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    1. 1.1[with object and adverbial of direction]Cause to move suddenly and with force.
      ‘suddenly the ladder broke, precipitating them down into a heap’
      • ‘The aging, untended planks, however, crumbled under their surging weight and broke away with a palpable snap, precipitating the struggling pair like so many sacks of sand to the lower level.’
      • ‘A light step was heard crossing the floor, as if from the bed to the window; and almost at the same instant the door gave way, and, yielding to the pressure of the external applicants, nearly precipitated them into the room.’
      hurl, catapult, throw, plunge, launch, project, fling, cast, heave, propel
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    2. 1.2Send someone or something suddenly into a particular state or condition.
      ‘they were precipitated into a conflict for which they were quite unprepared’
      • ‘Such actions might even precipitate us into another ice age, and, as history illustrates, cold periods are normally worse than warm, both for humans and for wildlife.’
      • ‘It was his advice, too, which partly helped indirectly to precipitate me into my present much happier situation.’
      • ‘Shipwrecks are a constant in this tale, being the main means of precipitating Pericles into his various adventures, like an especially unlucky Odysseus.’
      • ‘The criminal would mount the scaffold and stand upon this trapdoor, which would then open, precipitating the person into a fall of some feet.’
      • ‘Garbed as they were, admission was refused, which, it is said, precipitated them into forming a founding nucleus to take in other rural dwellers who had suffered similar indignities.’
  • 2Chemistry
    Cause (a substance) to be deposited in solid form from a solution.

    ‘cell proteins were then precipitated and washed in 10% trichloroacetic acid’
    • ‘There are also some concerns about the use of sodium bicarbonate, because it may worsen hypocalcemia or precipitate calcium phosphate deposition on various tissues.’
    • ‘It is then mixed with ammonia to precipitate solid uranium oxide that is of a purer grade.’
    • ‘For example, the organic compound phenanthrene can be precipitated from an ethanolic solution by the addition of water.’
    • ‘When substances are precipitated by inorganic or organic processes the material is known as chemical sediment.’
    • ‘The process involves dissolving the black drugs in water, and adding ammonium hydroxide to precipitate the drugs present in the mixture.’
    1. 2.1Cause (drops of moisture or particles of dust) to be deposited from the atmosphere or from a vapour or suspension.
      ‘excess moisture is precipitated as rain, fog, mist, or dew’
      • ‘Oxides of sulfur and nitrogen react with water vapor in the atmosphere and then are precipitated out as acid rain.’
      • ‘They discovered that sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere allows clouds to precipitate rain in smaller particles.’
      • ‘When that vapour is precipitated as rain it carries the acidity with it.’
      • ‘These will subsequently be precipitated, but as relatively fine particles.’
      • ‘This air cools significantly to become supersaturated with respect to ice, and some of the moisture precipitates out in the form of ice crystals.’
      liquefy, become liquid, deliquesce, liquidize
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  • 1Done, made, or acting suddenly or without careful consideration.

    ‘I must apologize for my staff—their actions were precipitate’
    • ‘Declaring victory would not only be precipitate but dangerous.’
    • ‘It was decided by those present that the Agency must get a message to him warning him against precipitate action.’
    • ‘The bizarre timing was a clear indication that the security services and the police had decided to take precipitate action.’
    • ‘Here are corals that have gone with the flow for 200 million years, and now they're facing the precipitate exodus of their business partners, the zooxanthellae.’
    • ‘His precipitate departure may yet snuff out such modest hopes, however, and leave the Tories as far away from office as they were in 2001.’
    • ‘The cracking of an old bough, or the hooting of the owl, was enough to fill me with alarm, and try my strength in a precipitate flight.’
    • ‘In such instances the will and the courage confronted by some great difficulty which it can neither master nor endure, appears in some to recede in precipitate flight, leaving only panic and temporary unreason in its wake.’
    • ‘While some advisers are recommending that investors take a more sceptical approach if they are faced with changes in their fund management company, others caution that it would be wrong to take precipitate action.’
    • ‘It said the dossier published by the Government on Monday ‘does not constitute evidence of immediate threat and therefore is not a justification for precipitate military action’.’
    • ‘If it were admitted that you who are dissatisfied hold the right side in the dispute, there still is no single good reason for precipitate action.’
    • ‘She was astonished that her precipitate escape attempt had met with no difficulties thus far.’
    • ‘But most borrowers will lose substantially by taking this kind of precipitate action.’
    • ‘But she certainly stirred a mob reaction in populist manner on an issue that needs sensitive and informed leadership and serious democratic debate, careful and caring thought, not instinctive and precipitate action.’
    • ‘Perhaps more than a handful of those members have come to understand the potential calamity of a precipitate withdrawal.’
    • ‘A precipitate marriage legitimized the birth of their first child.’
    • ‘It is good news that there is a deal, but many questions remain and policyholders should not take precipitate action yet.’
    • ‘More generally, they regarded him as unsympathetic to popular aspirations and intent on imposing a restrictive arrangement with precipitate haste.’
    • ‘He was a mediocre speaker, uncomfortable in circumstances of political manoeuvre, often either too hesitant or too precipitate in action, and wedded to a proud independence that interfered with the building of successful alliances.’
    • ‘We're yet to see why three of the most professional and senior staff in the public service would take such a precipitate action.’
    hasty, overhasty, rash, hurried, rushed
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    1. 1.1Occurring suddenly or abruptly.
      ‘a precipitate decline in Labour fortunes’
      • ‘The final Confederate collapse was precipitate.’
      • ‘It may be that the precipitate fall in the last survey - widely regarded in both the radio and advertising industries as a glitch - is no fluke.’
      • ‘Real wages increased only slowly, probably not sufficiently to counter the precipitate decline of the handwork trades and the high marginal costs of urban life.’
      • ‘The modest fall-off which ensued was followed by a more precipitate decline in World War I, the result of a cut in mine production occasioned by labour shortages.’
      sudden, rapid, swift, abrupt, meteoric, headlong, speedy, quick, fast, hurried, breakneck, violent, unexpected, without warning, unanticipated, unforeseen
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  • A substance precipitated from a solution.

    • ‘If positive, the nutrients bind with the soil and become unavailable - an insoluble precipitate.’
    • ‘In the cerium precipitates form needle-like crystals.’
    • ‘Here they can form precipitates that can be carried many kilometres by bottom currents.’
    • ‘Any silver ions present form a white precipitate (silver chloride).’
    • ‘However, they do not form extensive precipitates on the bacterial surface.’


Early 16th century: from Latin praecipitat- thrown headlong, from the verb praecipitare, from praeceps, praecip(it)- headlong, from prae before + caput head. The original sense of the verb was ‘hurl down, send violently’; hence ‘cause to move rapidly’, which gave rise to sense 1 (early 17th century).