The skin graft failed to take.

What does 'take' do here?

What is the right way to interpret the verb 'take'?

3 Answers 3


The verb 'take' has lots of meanings, and not all are listed in every dictionary. The meaning in this sentence is 'have the effect or result that is desired'. If you dye some cloth with a dye that is wrong for the cloth, or incorrectly used, the colour may wash out, and we could say that the dye 'didn't take'. Also (for example) if we paint something with the wrong kind of paint, or use the wrong kind of glue to stick something to something else. As here, the skin graft did not stay where it was intended to.


  1. VERB

If something such as a drug or a dye takes, it has the effect or result that is intended.

If the cortisone doesn't take, I may have to have surgery.

Synonyms: work, succeed, do the trick [informal], have effect

Take (Collins Dictionary)


From Merriam-Webster...

take (intransitive verb)
3: to establish a take especially by uniting or growing
90 percent of the grafts take

take (noun)
4a: a local or systemic reaction indicative of successful vaccination (as against smallpox)
4b: a successful union (as of a graft)

In most contexts, this specific use of take can be understood as meaning take hold / root / effect (become firmly established / functional), but that doesn't imply the single-word intransitive usage is "short for" or "derived from" an underlying phrasal verb to take hold. It's its own usage.


More generally, I would say that the intransitive verb, "to take" has a meaning of "become established". It can be applied to an idea, a fad, a dye, a plant, an organ transplant, and so on - seemingly anywhere that a thing can either become established or be rejected.

  • 1
    I tried to give myself a cool nickname, but it didn't take.
    – barbecue
    Nov 16, 2021 at 22:45
  • @barbecue Indeed. Your current username sounds a little hot. Nov 18, 2021 at 8:19

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