mod·​u·​late | \ˈmä-jə-ˌlāt \
modulated; modulating

Definition of modulate 

transitive verb

1 : to tune to a key or pitch

2 : to adjust to or keep in proper measure or proportion : temper

3 : to vary the amplitude, frequency, or phase of (a carrier wave or a light wave) for the transmission of information (as by radio) also : to vary the velocity of electrons in an electron beam

intransitive verb

1 : to play or sing with modulation

2 : to pass from one musical key into another by means of intermediary chords or notes that have some relation to both keys

3 : to pass gradually from one state to another

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Other Words from modulate

modulator \-​ˌlā-​tər \ noun
modulatory \-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē \ adjective

Examples of modulate in a Sentence

Because she doesn't modulate her voice, she sounds the same when she's excited as when she's sad. The music quickly modulates from its original key, changing the mood of the song.

Recent Examples on the Web

Although the performance sparked outrage in the Brookhaven community, officials last week modulated their tone, saying Forest Hill’s students shouldn’t be punished for following the direction of their band director. Jeff Amy, The Seattle Times, "Sanctions upheld against band after questionable program," 23 Oct. 2018 In a test run of singles last year, Ms. Whack, who had returned to Philadelphia, toyed with modulating her voice, hopscotching between genres and just generally going for it, including visually, where she’s drawn to extremes. Joe Coscarelli, New York Times, "15 Songs in 15 Minutes: Inside Tierra Whack’s Whimsical, Twisted World," 6 June 2018 If one or more wheel begins to lock, the system will modulate the brakes, preventing the lockup—and avoiding a skid. Ben Stewart, Popular Mechanics, "How 4X4s Got So Good," 18 May 2016 Arthur moved to Manhattan in 2005 to study at NYU under Nassim Nicholas Taleb, whose emphasis on life’s randomness modulated Arthur’s belief that life was a multidimensional optimization problem. Gideon Lewis-kraus, WIRED, "The Blockchain: A Love Story—And a Horror Story," 18 June 2018 The advanced autopilot, which represents a significant evolution from from previous versions, also helps modulate hovers and landings, even easing descents into brownout or whiteout conditions when visibility drops to zero. Eric Adams, WIRED, "Airbus' H160 Helicopter Helps Save Pilots from Their Own Mistakes," 31 May 2018 For instance, Uber’s recently announced partnership with electric-aircraft startup Karem, which is developing variable-RPM rotors that can more efficiently modulate the power usage from existing batteries, is just one possible solution. Eric Adams, WIRED, "Four Reasons We Don’t Have Flying Cars—Yet," 15 June 2018 If Trump didn’t modulate his behavior, the election would be a referendum on which candidate was the most anti-American. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump team cannot get its story straight on separating migrant families," 18 June 2018 First, beginning in 2001, scientists observed that mice with different microbiota had different biologies, suggesting that resident bacteria could modulate the host’s gene expression. Jason Pontin, WIRED, "The 19th-Century Crank Who Tried to Tell Us About the Microbiome," 15 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'modulate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of modulate

1615, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for modulate

Latin modulatus, past participle of modulari to play, sing, from modulus small measure, rhythm, diminutive of modus measure — more at mete

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Statistics for modulate

Last Updated

18 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for modulate

The first known use of modulate was in 1615

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English Language Learners Definition of modulate

: to change the sound of (your voice) by making it quieter, higher, lower, etc.

music : to move gradually from one key to another

: to change or adjust (something) so that it exists in a balanced or proper amount


transitive verb
mod·​u·​late | \ˈmäj-ə-ˌlāt \
modulated; modulating

Medical Definition of modulate 

: to adjust to or keep in proper measure or proportion modulate an immune response modulate cell activity

Other Words from modulate

modulatory \-​lə-​ˌtōr-​ē, -​ˌtȯr-​ \ adjective

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More from Merriam-Webster on modulate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with modulate

Spanish Central: Translation of modulate

Nglish: Translation of modulate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of modulate for Arabic Speakers

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