"action or process of infiltrating," in physics, 1796, noun of action from infiltrate. Figurative sense of "a passing into" (anything immaterial) is from 1840; military sense of "stealthy penetration of enemy lines" dates from 1930. The same word had been used earlier in a medical sense of "a knitting together" (early 15c.), from Medieval Latin infiltratio.
updated on November 19, 2015