- 1[transitive, intransitive] to go into or through something penetrate something The knife had penetrated his chest. The sun's radiation penetrates the skin. The cold seemed to penetrate his bones. (figurative) The war penetrates every area of the nation's life. penetrate into/through/to something These fine particles penetrate deep into the lungs.
- 2[transitive, intransitive] to succeed in entering or joining an organization, a group, etc. especially when this is difficult to do penetrate something They had penetrated airport security. The party has been penetrated by extremists. This year the company has been trying to penetrate new markets (= to start selling their products there). penetrate into something The troops had penetrated deep into enemy lines.
- 3[transitive] penetrate something to see or show a way into or through something Our eyes could not penetrate the darkness. The flashlights barely penetrated the gloom. narrow alleys where the sun never penetrates
- 4[transitive] penetrate something to understand or discover something that is difficult to understand or is hidden Science can penetrate many of nature's mysteries. a style that is difficult to penetrate No one could penetrate the meaning of the inscription.
- 5[intransitive, transitive] to be understood or realized by somebody I was at the door before his words penetrated. penetrate something None of my advice seems to have penetrated his thick skull (= he has not listened to any of it).
- 6[transitive] penetrate somebody/something (of a man) to put the penis into the vagina or anus of a sexual partner Word Originmid 16th cent.: from Latin penetrat- ‘placed or gone into’, from the verb penetrare; related to penitus ‘inner’.Extra examples It is not yet known how deeply the radiation has penetrated into the soil. The dust had penetrated to all corners of the room. The light could not penetrate through the thick curtains. The news slowly penetrated his consciousness. The sunlight barely penetrated the inner room. These so-called secret societies were easily penetrated by intelligence agents. caves penetrating deep into the hills His books are written in a style that is difficult to penetrate. Science can penetrate many of nature’s mysteries.
BrE BrE//ˈpenətreɪt//; NAmE NAmE//ˈpenətreɪt//Verb Forms present simple I / you / we / they penetrate
BrE BrE//ˈpenətreɪt//; NAmE NAmE//ˈpenətreɪt//he / she / it penetrates
BrE BrE//ˈpenətreɪts//; NAmE NAmE//ˈpenətreɪts//past simple penetrated
BrE BrE//ˈpenətreɪtɪd//; NAmE NAmE//ˈpenətreɪtɪd//past participle penetrated
BrE BrE//ˈpenətreɪtɪd//; NAmE NAmE//ˈpenətreɪtɪd//-ing form penetrating
BrE BrE//ˈpenətreɪtɪŋ//; NAmE NAmE//ˈpenətreɪtɪŋ//