Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The act or process of piercing or penetrating something, especially:
  • n. The act of entering a country or organization so as to establish influence or gain information.
  • n. An attack that penetrates enemy territory or a military front.
  • n. Insertion of the penis into the vagina or anus.
  • n. The power or ability to penetrate.
  • n. The depth reached by a projectile after hitting its target.
  • n. The degree to which a commodity, for example, is sold or recognized in a particular market.
  • n. The extent of influence that one culture or nation has on another.
  • n. The capacity or action of understanding; insight.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The act or process of penetrating, piercing, or entering; also, the act of mentally penetrating into, or comprehending, anything difficult.
  • n. Acuteness; insight; sharp discoverment; sagacity.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The act of penetrating or piercing.
  • n. Power of penetrating; specifically, in gunnery, the depth a projectile will pass into any material against which it is fired.
  • n. Mental acuteness; discernment; insight: as, a man of extraordinary penetration.
  • n. In optics: Of a microscope objective, its power of giving fairly distinct vision for points both inside and outside of its exact focus.
  • n. Of a telescope, its space-penetrating power, as Herschel called it—i. e. the number of times by which the distance of an observed star might be increased while still appearing of the same brightness in the telescope as it does to the naked eye. It is proportional to the square root of the illuminating power, and for an achromatic telescope is approximately equal to four times its aperture in inches.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the ability to make way into or through something
  • n. the depth to which something penetrates (especially the depth reached by a projectile that hits a target)
  • n. clear or deep perception of a situation
  • n. the act of entering into or through something
  • n. an attack that penetrates into enemy territory
  • n. the act (by a man) of inserting his penis into the vagina of a woman

Etymologies

From Middle French pénétration, and its source, Latin penetrātiō, from the participle stem of penetro ("pierce"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

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