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

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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 That ballet has a joyous theatricality to it: as the Bach variations modulate from lively to stately and back again, so does Robbins’s movement vocabulary. Erica Getto, The New York Review of Books, "‘A Delightful Flurry of Movement’: Dances to Bach," 1 Feb. 2020 Throughout the sketch, Yang masterfully modulated his voice and tone, always poking fun at whatever Che asks him. Travis M. Andrews, Washington Post, "‘We actually built our wall’: SNL’s Bowen Yang shines as Chinese trade representative Chen Biao on SNL," 6 Oct. 2019 For me, the other factors or ingredients that contribute to fear, such as brain arousal and feedback from body responses, modulate but do not determine the quality of the experience. Dean Mobbs, Scientific American, "On the Nature of Fear," 20 Sep. 2019 Trump modulated his tone for his State of the Union speech and gave a combination of red-meat goals for fellow conservatives and statesmanlike achievements for voters as a whole. Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, "Pollster John Zogby: Best week yet for President Trump," 8 Feb. 2020 And, as noted above, a number of other economic factors may modulate any impacts of the minimum wage. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "Higher minimum wages linked to reduced suicide rate," 12 Jan. 2020 With careful inspection, one notices how a layering of pigment creates a pictorial space that is constantly in flux, modulating the markings so that an overall shape is only loosely present. Matthew Bourbon, Dallas News, "Warm and fuzzy: Marjorie Norman Schwarz’s paintings at Dallas’ 12.26 gallery reward viewers’ patience," 15 Jan. 2020 Lime juice Acidity modulates our perception of both sweetness and bitterness, making citrus an effective mediator in the binary struggle between bitter ethanol and sweet sugar. Ali Bouzari,, "Housemade: How Tommy’s Mexican Restaurant highlights quality Tequila in its margaritas," 30 Dec. 2019 That’s why, in addition to helping treat the symptoms of psoriasis, drugs that modulate TNF-alpha can also be helpful in treating conditions like inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "What Exactly Are Biologics for Psoriasis?," 21 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for modulate

Time Traveler

The first known use of modulate was in 1615

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Statistics for modulate

Last Updated

25 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Modulate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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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

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