mod·​u·​late | \ ˈmä-jə-ˌlāt How to pronounce modulate (audio) \
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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from modulate

modulator \ ˈmä-​jə-​ˌlā-​tər How to pronounce modulator (audio) \ noun
modulatory \ ˈmä-​jə-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce modulatory (audio) \ 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 Drugs that impede the virus or modulate the immune system are being studied across the country. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, "Why It’s Important Not to Drink Bleach," 24 Apr. 2020 Soon, flames had engulfed the plant and incinerated the production line that made a part called a P-valve—a device used in vehicles to modulate brake pressure and prevent skidding. Siddhartha Mukherjee, The New Yorker, "What the Coronavirus Crisis Reveals About American Medicine," 27 Apr. 2020 This would theoretically impede the virus from interacting with its receptor and modulate the inflammatory response to the virus. Adam M. Brufsky, The Conversation, "Blood sugar levels may influence vulnerability to coronavirus, and controlling them through conventional means might be protective," 22 Apr. 2020 The truth, as both Fox News and Harris officials would explain, was that technical difficulties in the Iowa bar’s sound system had oddly modulated her voice. Washington Post, "Doctored images have become a fact of life for political campaigns. When they’re disproved, believers ‘just don’t care.’," 14 Jan. 2020 Based on the limited evidence so far, giving hydroxychloroquine to people could very well be—as with most drugs that modulate the immune system—of some benefit in some circumstances. James Hamblin, The Atlantic, "Be Very Careful About Taking Medical Advice From President Trump," 6 Apr. 2020 Some of the first studies available after remdesivir’s readouts will be of immune modulating drugs, such as Roche’s Actemra and Regeneron’s Kevzara. Andrew Joseph, STAT, "Data for Gilead’s potential coronavirus therapy are coming soon. Here’s what you need to know," 6 Apr. 2020 People are trying all different sorts of immune-modulating drugs to just see what can be done. Jacqueline Landry, The Atlantic, "Social Distance: Trump’s Miracle Cure," 9 Apr. 2020 Their voice develops and modulates as loyal readers keep coming back. Ben Huberman, Longreads, "When Readers Support Longreads, We Can Nurture Strong Relationships with Writers," 2 Mar. 2020

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about modulate

Time Traveler for modulate

Time Traveler

The first known use of modulate was in 1615

See more words from the same year

Statistics for modulate

Last Updated

2 Jun 2020

Cite this Entry

“Modulate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2020.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for modulate


How to pronounce modulate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of modulate

formal : 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
mod·​u·​late | \ ˈmäj-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce modulate (audio) \
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-​ How to pronounce modulatory (audio) \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on modulate

What made you want to look up modulate? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


See Definitions and Examples »

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

May 2020 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a blooming wisteria tree
  • Which is a synonym of exiguous?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Syn City

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!