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 modulate (audio) \ noun
modulatory \ ˈmä-​jə-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce modulate (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 The same hormone is known to modulate social behavior in humans and animals to strengthen maternal bonding attachment. Gabriel A. Silva, Forbes, "How Your Brain Makes Decisions Impacts How It Evaluates (Mis)Information," 8 May 2021 In a 2011 study, the team engineered cells to respond to blue light by expressing a protein known to modulate blood glucose. Simon Makin, Scientific American, "Using Light to Control Cells Holds Promise across the Body," 23 Apr. 2021 And of the 85 billion other non-neuronal cells in the brain, one major type of cell called astrocyte glial cells have the ability to both listen in and modulate neuronal signaling and information processing. Gabriel A. Silva, Forbes, "What The Human Brain And Ants Have In Common," 19 Apr. 2021 This mimicry of the human body by machines could be a saving grace, especially in the face of an inability to modulate human interventions on life more generally. Jamieson Webster, The New York Review of Books, "On Breathing," 2 Apr. 2021 Interferons, immune proteins that modulate the response of the immune system to viruses, are crucial for mounting an immune response. USA Today, "What science has learned works and what doesn’t in COVID treatments," 14 Mar. 2021 Yet that mainstream platform hasn’t led her to change her style or modulate her message. New York Times, "‘I Was Invisible’: The Maid-Turned-Star Who’s Taking On Racism in Brazil," 19 Feb. 2021 The trouble is that Lee will not modulate his antic music. Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker, "Chang-rae Lee Lets Loose in “My Year Abroad”," 8 Feb. 2021 In this version of the R, the seven-speed DSG gearbox offers Special and Drift modes to help modulate power to the wheels. Eric Adams, Popular Mechanics, "The Most Anticipated Cars of 2021," 7 Dec. 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.

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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

12 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Modulate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for modulate



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


transitive verb
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 modulate (audio) \ adjective

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