AskDefine | Define precipitate

Dictionary Definition

precipitate adj : done with very great haste and without due deliberation; "hasty marriage seldom proveth well"- Shakespeare; "hasty makeshifts take the place of planning"- Arthur Geddes; "rejected what was regarded as an overhasty plan for reconversion"; "wondered whether they had been rather precipitate in deposing the king" [syn: hasty, overhasty, precipitant, precipitous] n : a precipitated solid substance in suspension or after settling or filtering


1 separate as a fine suspension of solid particles
2 bring about abruptly; "The crisis precipitated by Russia's revolution"
3 fall from clouds; "rain, snow and sleet were falling"; "Vesuvius precipitated its fiery, destructive rage on Herculaneum" [syn: come down, fall]
4 fall vertically, sharply, or headlong; "Our economy precipitated into complete ruin"
5 hurl or throw violently; "The bridge broke and precipitated the train into the river below"

User Contributed Dictionary


Pronunciation 1

  • /prɪˈsɪpɪteɪt/|/prəˈsɪpɪteɪt/

Etymology 1

From praecipito
  1. To make something happen suddenly and quickly; hasten.
  2. To throw an object or person from a great height.
  3. To send violently into a certain state or condition.
  4. In the context of "intransitive|chemistry": To come out of a liquid solution into solid form.
    Adding the acid will cause the salt to precipitate.
  5. In the context of "transitive|chemistry": To separate a substance out of a liquid solution into solid form.
  6. In the context of "intransitive|meteorology": To have water in the air fall to the ground, for example as rain, snow, sleet, or hail; be deposited as condensed droplets.
    It will precipitate tomorrow, but we don't know whether as rain or snow.
Derived terms
Related terms
To make something happen suddenly and quickly; hasten
To throw an object or person from a great height
To send violently into a certain state or condition
To come out of a liquid solution into solid form
To separate out of a liquid solution into solid form
To have water in the air fall to the ground

Pronunciation 2

  • /prɪˈsɪpɪtət/|/prəˈsɪpɪtət/

Etymology 2

From praecipitatum
  1. A product resulting from a process, event, or course of action.
  2. A solid that exits the liquid phase of a solution.
A product resulting from a process, event, or course of action
A solid that exits the liquid phase of a solution

Etymology 3

From praecipitatus
  1. Headlong; falling steeply or vertically.
  2. Very steep; precipitous.
  3. With a hasty impulse; hurried; headstrong.
  4. Moving with excessive speed or haste.
  5. Performed very rapidly or abruptly.
Headlong; falling steeply or vertically
Very steep; precipitous
With a hasty impulse; hurried; headstrong
Moving with excessive speed or haste
Performed very rapidly or abruptly



precipitate p


  1. second-person plural present tense of precipitare
  2. second-person plural imperative of precipitare
  3. feminine plural past participle of precipitare

Extensive Definition

Precipitation is the formation of a solid in a solution during a chemical reaction. When the reaction occurs, the solid formed is called the precipitate, and the liquid remaining above the solid is called the supernate.

Uses of precipitation reactions

Precipitation reactions can be used for making pigments, removing salts from water in water treatment, and for qualitative chemical analysis.
This effect is useful in many industrial and scientific applications whereby a chemical reaction may produce a solid that can be collected from the solution by various methods (e.g. filtration, decanting, centrifugation). Precipitation from a solid solution is also a useful way to strengthen alloys; this process is known as solid solution strengthening.


Precipitation can occur when an insoluble substance is formed in the solution due to a chemical reaction or when the solution has been supersaturated by a compound. The formation of a precipitate is a sign of a chemical change. In most situations, the solid forms ("falls") out of the solute phase, and sinks to the bottom of the solution (though it will float if it is less dense than the solvent, or form a suspension).
The solid may reach the bottom of a container by means of settling, sedimentation, or centrifugation.
An important stage of the precipitation process is the onset of nucleation. The creation of a hypothetical solid particle includes the formation of an interface, which requires some energy based on the relative surface energy of the solid and the solution. If this energy is not available, and no suitable nucleation surface is available, supersaturation occurs.

Representation using chemical equations

An example of a precipitation reaction: Aqueous silver nitrate (AgNO3) is added to a solution containing potassium chloride (KCl) and the precipitation of a white solid, silver chloride is observed. (Zumdahl, 2005)
AgNO3 (aq) + KCl (aq) → AgCl (s) + KNO3 (aq)
The silver chloride(AgCl) has formed a solid, which is observed as a precipitate.
This reaction can be written emphasizing the dissociated ions in a combined solution. This is known as the ionic equation.
Ag+ (aq) + NO3- (aq) + K+ (aq) + Cl- (aq) → AgCl (s) + K+ (aq) + NO3- (aq)
A final way to represent a precipitate reaction is known as a net ionic reaction. In this case, any spectator ions (those which do not contribute to the reaction) are left out of the formula completely. This simplifies the above equations to the following:
Ag+ (aq) + Cl- (aq) → AgCl (s)

Cation sensitivity

Precipitate formation is useful in the detection of the type of cation in salt. To do this, an alkali first reacts with the unknown salt to produce a precipitate which is the hydroxide of the unknown salt. To identify the cation, the color of the precipitate and its solubility in excess are noted. Similar processes are often used to separate chemically similar elements, such as the Alkali earth metals.


Digestion, or precipitate ageing, happens when a freshly-formed precipitate is left, usually at a higher temperature, in the solution from which it is precipitated. It results in cleaner and bigger particles. The physico-chemical process underlying digestion is called Ostwald ripening.


Coprecipitation is the carrying down by a precipitate of substances normally soluble under the conditions employed. It is an important issue in chemical analysis, where it is often undesirable, but in some cases it can be exploited. In gravimetric analysis, it is a problem because undesired impurities often coprecipitate with the analyte, resulting in excess mass. On the other hand, in the analysis of trace elements, as is often the case in radiochemistry, coprecipitation is often the only way of separating an element.


  • Zumdahl, Steven S. Chemical Principles. 4th ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.
  • Mark Smith Principles of Science 1993

Further reading

  • Banert, T., Brenner, G., Peuker, U. A. (2006), Operating parameters of a continuous sono-chemical precipitation reactor, Proc. 5. WCPT, Orlando Fl., 23.-27. April 2006.
precipitate in Catalan: Precipitació (química)
precipitate in Danish: Fældningsreaktion
precipitate in German: Fällung
precipitate in Spanish: Precipitado
precipitate in French: Précipité
precipitate in Galician: Precipitación (reacción)
precipitate in Italian: Precipitazione (chimica)
precipitate in Hebrew: תגובת שיקוע
precipitate in Dutch: Neerslag (scheikunde)
precipitate in Japanese: 沈殿
precipitate in Norwegian: Fellingsreaksjon
precipitate in Norwegian Nynorsk: Fellingsreaksjon
precipitate in Portuguese: Precipitação (química)
precipitate in Russian: Преципитат (химия)
precipitate in Sundanese: Présipitasi
precipitate in Swedish: Utfällning
precipitate in Urdu: عمل ترسیب
precipitate in Chinese: 沉淀

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

a bit previous, abrupt, accelerate, accident-prone, ad-lib, advance, advanced, aftereffect, aftermath, agile, alluvion, alluvium, arduous, ash, blow down, blow over, bowl down, bowl over, breakneck, breathless, bring about, bring down, bring on, bulldog, bundle, bustle, by-product, careless, cascade, cast, cast down, cataract, caught napping, caught off balance, caught short, chop down, cinder, clinker, collapse, come down, consequence, consequent, corollary, crash, crowd, cut down, dash down, dashing, deck, deposit, deposition, deposits, derivation, derivative, descend, desperate, development, devil-may-care, diluvium, dip down, dispatch, distillate, double-quick, down, draff, dregs, drive on, drizzle, drop, drop down, drop off, dross, drum, eagle-winged, effect, electrifying, ember, event, eventuality, eventuation, expedite, expeditious, express, extemporaneous, extemporized, facilitate, fall, fall down, fall off, far ahead, fast, feces, fell, fetch down, fleet, fling, floor, flying, foolhardy, forward, froth, fruit, furious, further, galloping, go down, go downhill, gravitate, ground, grounds, hair-trigger, half-baked, half-cocked, haphazard, harum-scarum, harvest, haste, hasten, hasten on, hasty, head, headlong, headstrong, hew down, hie on, hotheaded, hurl, hurried, hurry, hurry along, hurry on, hurry up, hustle, hustle up, hustling, ill-considered, impatient, impetuous, impromptu, improvised, impulsive, incautious, incite, incline, injudicious, instigate, issue, knock down, launch, lay level, lay low, lay out, lead, lean, lees, legacy, level, light of heel, light-footed, lively, loess, logical outcome, lose altitude, mad, madcap, makeshift, mercurial, meteoric, mizzle, moraine, mow down, nerve-shattering, nimble, nimble-footed, not firm, offscum, offshoot, offspring, outcome, outgrowth, overeager, overenthusiastic, overhasty, oversoon, overzealous, panting, parachute, patter, pelt, pitch, pitter-patter, plummet, plunge, point, pounce, pour, pour down, pour with rain, precipitant, precipitation, precipitous, precocious, premature, press, previous, product, project, prompt, prostrate, provoke, pull down, push, push forward, push on, push through, quick, quick as lightning, quick as thought, quicken, railroad through, rain, rain tadpoles, rapid, rase, rash, raze, reckless, refractory, result, resultant, rough-and-ready, running, rush, rush along, rushed, rushing, scoria, scum, sediment, sedimentate, sedimentation, send headlong, sequel, sequela, sequence, sequent, settle, settlings, sheer, shocking, shower, shower down, sideling, silt, sink, sinter, slag, slap-bang, slapdash, smut, snap, snappy, soot, spanking, spatter, speed, speed along, speed up, speedy, spit, spread-eagle, sprinkle, spur, stampede, startling, stickle, stoop, stream, sublimate, subside, sudden, supinate, surprised, surprising, swift, swoop, take down, taken aback, taken by surprise, taken unawares, tattoo, tend, tend to go, throw, throw down, too early, too soon, topple, trend downward, trigger, trip, tripped up, tumble, unannounced, unanticipated, unarranged, unbegun, unconcocted, uncontrived, uncontrolled, uncrystallized, undeliberated, undevised, unexpected, unforeseen, unhatched, unjelled, unlooked-for, unmade, unmanufactured, unmatured, unmeditated, unorganized, unplanned, unpredicted, unpremeditated, unprepared, unprimed, unready, unrestrained, unripe, unstudied, untimely, upshot, urge, violent, volatile, wanton, weep, whack down, whip, whip along, wild, willful, winged
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