Definition of penetrate in US 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’
    • ‘Cameron's voice penetrated the ringing in his ears.’
    • ‘As soon as I heard the voice penetrate the transit silence, I was embarrassed for the speaker.’
    • ‘The wood rocked again, now more violently, and the splashing recommenced, this time in a rhythm, sounding like oars penetrating water.’
    • ‘Some of his friends made a strenuous effort to penetrate the barrier he was erecting and found that underneath was still the friendly, deep thinking, brilliant mathematician.’
    • ‘There was no way any force could penetrate the base, none whatsoever.’
    • ‘But the darker voice was penetrating her skull, resounding in the caverns of memories.’
    • ‘If deployed along a certain small strip, Soviet armored forces could penetrate the West and unleash apocalypse.’
    • ‘An important role in destroying an enemy force that has penetrated the defense is played by the ambush party.’
    • ‘The voice penetrated my deep cloud of sleep, a silvery bolt of lightning flashing through the underwater dream-currents.’
    • ‘The idea was to use armoured force to penetrate deep into the enemy rear in order to destroy its command and control systems.’
    • ‘She paused as the words made a valiant effort to penetrate her mind.’
    • ‘Her cousin's voice penetrated the awkward silence, and of course, he didn't notice the tension in the foyer.’
    • ‘The 16-year-old had a lock-knife thrust into him with such force it penetrated his chest and hit a lung.’
    • ‘‘Heather,’ his sympathetic voice penetrated my ears and then I finally took notice of him.’
    • ‘Though he might not get statistical credit, Rogers has a knack for blowing up plays by quickly penetrating the backfield and forcing running backs to change direction.’
    • ‘That was the last thing I remembered before a familiar voice penetrated my unconsciousness.’
    • ‘His solemn eyes penetrated her thoughts, forcing unwanted emotions through her mind.’
    • ‘Voices penetrated the walls from the back yard.’
    • ‘Erika screamed, her forceful voice penetrating the bubble's walls.’
    • ‘Sam winced as her voice penetrated his eardrums.’
    • ‘When one of them spoke, his loud, deep voice somehow penetrated the walls of the submarine as he addressed those inside.’
    pierce, puncture, make a hole in, perforate, stab, prick, probe, gore, spike, stick, impale, transfix, bore, bore through, drill, drill through, lance
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    1. 1.1 (of a man) insert the penis into the vagina or anus of (a sexual partner).
    2. 1.2 Infiltrate (an enemy group or rival organization) in order to spy on it.
      ‘they feared that their council had been penetrated by informers’
      • ‘They have an ability to penetrate some of these organizations much better, more easily than we do.’
      • ‘New Orleans was perhaps distinctive in the extreme savagery of its ghettos, and the inability of civic organizations to penetrate poor areas.’
      • ‘We've got to be down and dirty in our intelligence work and do a better job at penetrating these organizations.’
      • ‘If there wasn't such reporting, do we need to do more to beef up our intelligence so that we can penetrate whatever organization was responsible for this outrage.’
      • ‘Unfortunately, he did not have full access, nor ability, to penetrate the more remote regions of the country.’
      • ‘They could be exploits that would allow military intelligence to penetrate military systems.’
      • ‘The raid was more evidence that the dissident groups have been thoroughly penetrated by the intelligence services.’
      • ‘But fascism has never penetrated the organised working class movement.’
      • ‘It is a sobering argument and one whose subtlety may not penetrate the political/media filter that permits only sound bites and slogans to pass through.’
      • ‘No matter the level of US security, it can be and is penetrated.’
      • ‘In the final analysis, the one place not even the most modern and sophisticated intelligence systems can penetrate is the human mind.’
      • ‘The security goal is to stop them before they penetrate the security zone with the intent to blow up the city's waterfront.’
      • ‘There is probably no organization in the world that cannot be penetrated given enough time, willpower and resources.’
      • ‘Firewall is a software which blocks suspicious potentially dangerous connections to preventing viruses from network to penetrate into your system.’
      • ‘Each part tends to operate independently, making the organization difficult to penetrate.’
      • ‘Obviously, these are very difficult groups to penetrate.’
      • ‘All of the aid in the world cannot penetrate political systems which are rife with corruption and nepotism.’
      • ‘Secondly, when you're dealing with external parties there are tremendous technical problems in penetrating their many different firewalls.’
      • ‘The raiders knew where the bullion was and went straight for it but could not penetrate the security area.’
      • ‘When penetrated, the system locks down the lobby and alerts security.’
      infiltrate, slip into, sneak into, creep into, insinuate oneself into, worm one's way into, make inroads into, invade, intrude on, overrun
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    3. 1.3 (of a company) begin to sell its products in (a particular market or area)
      ‘Honda has succeeded in penetrating Western motorcycle markets’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The success of the producer in penetrating new markets may be affected as much by limitations on where and when goods can be sold as by constraints on marketing.’
      • ‘But if Scottish companies are going to penetrate the market, they have to become a lot more aggressive with their marketing.’
      • ‘Many low-grade products are penetrating the Thai market and were popular among local people because of lower prices.’
      • ‘He said that one of our key selling points to companies who wish to penetrate the EU markets is the fact that we are committed to remain as active and central players within the European Union.’
      • ‘You can no longer expect to penetrate these high-rise markets exclusively from an exporting factory in the UK, for example.’
      • ‘He said there was need to certify the forests in Zambia if the forest products were to penetrate the European market.’
      • ‘Rather than lowering tariffs, developed countries continue to subsidize their farmers to penetrate developing markets with cheaper products.’
      • ‘When they try to penetrate a new market or introduce a new product, they often take members of the media on expensive trips so that they can get their stories into the papers and onto the airwaves.’
      • ‘The full year results, which are due on Monday, should reveal just how effective the company has been in penetrating the market.’
      • ‘I assume most mothers there use cloth nappies, but perhaps disposables are beginning to penetrate that market.’
      • ‘Only 1 per cent of the market has been penetrated so far.’
      • ‘After an early beginning, it collapsed in the 1920s as British and US film producers and distributors penetrated the local market.’
      • ‘On the wider front, we aim to boost our educational broadcasting by penetrating the burgeoning market of general knowledge programmes.’
      • ‘However, that scenario is slowly changing as artistic works are now beginning to penetrate the international market.’
      • ‘Determine how this initiative is going to help your firm make more money, sell more products, penetrate new markets, or increase shareholder wealth.’
      • ‘But it's beginning to penetrate the housing market; I have solar panels on my roof now for example.’
      • ‘The weakness of sterling is another challenge for the company, as imports penetrate the Irish market from the North and Britain.’
      • ‘I will do my best to penetrate the Senegalese market with this new product.’
      • ‘Everything seems fine, until sales suddenly hit a ceiling that the company cannot penetrate.’
    4. 1.4 Succeed in understanding or gaining insight into (something complex or mysterious)
      ‘a magician who seemed to have penetrated the mysteries of nature’
      • ‘The key often symbolizes a mystery about to be penetrated or a stage on our pathway to discovery and enlightenment.’
      • ‘His attempts at penetrating the cultural and religious complexities encountered along the way are far less successful.’
      • ‘It occurred to me then that he was almost completely sober, and his eyes seemed to almost penetrate me.’
      • ‘Though some essays are certainly stronger, or more penetrating than others are, each brings something new to the table, and enhances the dialogue in some way.’
      • ‘Comprehension and parallel understanding can and do penetrate from one means of communication to another.’
      • ‘So true was he to his own little light that many dismissed him as a crank and made little effort to penetrate his prose or make sense of his ideas.’
      • ‘I felt I had finally penetrated William's menacing mask and gained some understanding of the workings of his mind.’
      • ‘Having put that subject to bed and feeling smug about my penetrating analysis, I didn't think about it again until I went to a capital city.’
      • ‘The revolution troubled me because of the incredible dynamic vigour that penetrated you completely, exceeded your imagination, unfolded in your own inner world.’
      • ‘I simply wrote the truth, and relished the penetrating sharpness, the harsh beauty of reality.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It can mean, neutrally, the kind of art which aims for verisimilitude, or it can mean one which succeeds in penetrating to the truth of how things are.’
      • ‘Though monumentally long, it rarely drags, and today feels less like a finger-pointing exercise than a penetrating study of human nature.’
      • ‘This said, these are poems that more than adequately repay the effort given to penetrate their meaning.’
      understand, comprehend, apprehend, fathom, grasp, perceive, discern, get to the bottom of, solve, resolve, make out, make sense of, interpret, puzzle out, work out, figure out, unravel, decipher, make head or tail of
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    5. 1.5no object Be fully understood or realized by someone.
      ‘as his words penetrated, she saw a mental picture of him with Dawn’
      • ‘My eyes are of a light violet colour like the twilight at dawn, observant and penetrating.’
      • ‘Mel echoed, letting the words slowly penetrate.’
      • ‘The cold anger Geoff felt was pushed aside by concern as her words penetrated.’
      • ‘Coupled with Dowd's interviewing technique, which is about as penetrating as a charity worker soliciting for funds by rattling a tin, the outcome is rather unsatisfactory.’
      • ‘‘His comments in workshops were few but invariably penetrating,’ Scott said.’
      • ‘Arthur's eyes fixed onto the paper, finding an understanding there while Gawaine's words would not penetrate.’
      • ‘It's sunny again but there's a fresh, penetrating wind, too fresh and far too penetrating to risk sparking off the cold again before it's properly finished.’
      • ‘I mean, obviously this evidence is more penetrating, more reliable, than, say, testimony of an eye witness at trial.’
      • ‘She's pretty, he thinks unexpectedly, but the thought is lost as her words penetrate.’
      • ‘For the first time I saw this man, whose words penetrated like a rapier thrust, in an entirely different light.’
      • ‘Only when his teenage children and his siblings used precisely the same words to describe him did the message penetrate.’
      • ‘Your website is penetrating, poignant and articulate.’
      be understood, be comprehended, be taken in, be grasped, become clear
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Mid 16th century: from Latin penetrat- ‘placed or gone into’, from the verb penetrare; related to penitus ‘inner’.