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

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 The most expensive type of traditional, cancer-fighting radiation — intensity modulated radiation therapy — costs around $20,000 per treatment, while others cost far less. Jay Hancock, Washington Post, "As Proton Centers Struggle, A Sign Of A Health Care Bubble?," 2 May 2018 And even if North Korea modulates its rhetoric, there is likely to remain a fundamental disconnect between what the United States wants the country to do and what Kim Jong-un is willing to give up. Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, "North Korea Calls U.S. Diplomatic Posture ‘Regrettable’," 7 July 2018 Steve Wymer, Nextdoor’s vice president of policy, told me that the same topics arise again and again, modulated by region and neighborhood type. Ian Bogost, The Atlantic, "What Petty Nextdoor Posts Reveal About America," 20 June 2018 Test Results: Maximum Braking Capability The Ioniq EV does have steering-wheel paddles that modulate the level of regenerative braking, allowing drivers to approximate the one-pedal driving style that Tesla has popularized among EV cognoscenti. Car and Driver, "2018 Hyundai Ioniq," 12 Mar. 2018 If Trump didn’t modulate his behavior, the election would be a referendum on which candidate was the most anti-American. Jon Lee Anderson, The New Yorker, "A New Revolution in Mexico," 25 June 2012

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

7 Oct 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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Comments on modulate

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