Definition of incubate in US English:



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

    • ‘Both parents take turns incubating the eggs and bringing food to the chicks.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Females build the nest, incubate eggs, and brood nestlings, but both sexes choose the nest site and feed offspring.’
    • ‘Both male and female birds incubate the three to four eggs for about 21 days.’
    • ‘The male emu incubates the eggs alone and accompanies the chicks for up to eighteen months of age.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘When most birds incubate eggs, the females often produce high levels of prolactin, a hormone involved in parental behavior.’
    • ‘Only female hummingbirds are involved in parental care; they must incubate eggs, brood young hatchlings, and feed the chicks as nestlings and fledglings.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Only if we notice that a bird is unable to incubate the egg is it then put in an incubator.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In monogamous species, both the male and female build the nest, incubate eggs, brood young and feed 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.’
    • ‘The eggs are incubated and hatch inside the female's body.’
    • ‘Ten birds incubating eggs were captured every seven days in each year.’
    • ‘The male brings food and incubates the eggs when the female leaves the nest to eat.’
    • ‘Both male and female kingfishers incubate the eggs, which take 2 to 4 weeks to hatch.’
    • ‘Like the eggs of birds, monotreme eggs are incubated and hatched outside the body of the mother.’
    • ‘The female builds the nest, incubates the eggs, and feeds the young on her own.’
    brood, sit on, cover
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 (especially in a laboratory) keep (eggs, cells, bacteria, embryos, etc.) at a suitable temperature so that they develop.
      ‘the samples were incubated at 80°C for three minutes’
      • ‘Explants were incubated at different temperatures (°C) after bombardment and analysed for reporter-gene expression.’
      • ‘The formation of this peak increases with irradiation time when the mitochondria are incubated under control conditions and present high membrane potentials.’
      • ‘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 Petri dishes with embryos were incubated at 30°C in the dark.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The homogenate was incubated at room temperature for 5 min with agitation and then supplemented with 6 ml of chloroform.’
      • ‘Other embryos were incubated directly in the Petri dishes for germination at a range of different temperatures.’
      • ‘Incubators were set at the temperatures indicated, and in all cases plates at different temperatures were incubated in parallel.’
      • ‘Embryos were incubated with primary antibody overnight at 4° with gentle agitation.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Control cells were incubated without test sample and with DMSO.’
      • ‘The embryos are incubated in the laboratory for an additional two to four days and transferred to the female partner's uterus.’
      • ‘The so-called ‘primary males’ can be produced at high frequency in the laboratory by incubating developing embryos at temperatures between 18° and 20°.’
      • ‘Pairs of test and control samples were incubated either in the darkness or under continuous illumination with white light.’
      • ‘Protein synthesis inhibition was performed by incubating plantlets at normal temperature and in the presence of 100 g ml - 1 cycloheximide.’
      • ‘The tubes were incubated at ambient temperature.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 1.2be incubating something Have an infectious disease developing inside one 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?’
      • ‘This could indicate rapidly and accurately whether a flock or herd has contracted 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Matthew had still been incubating the disease when he gave blood and my heart goes out to the people who were given it.’
    3. 1.3no object Develop slowly without outward or perceptible signs.
      ‘unfortunately the BSE bug incubates for around three years’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘From there, it had two years to travel the world, incubating and mutating, slowly changing its antigens to take on a more dangerous form.’
      • ‘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’.