un·​du·​late | \ˈən-jə-lət, ˈən-dyə-, ˈən-də-, -ˌlāt\
variants: or undulated \ ˈən-​jə-​ˌlā-​təd , ˈən-​dyə-​, ˈən-​də-​ \

Definition of undulate 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: having a wavy surface, edge, or markings the undulate margin of a leaf


un·​du·​late | \ˈən-jə-ˌlāt, ˈən-dyə-, ˈən-də-\
undulated; undulating

Definition of undulate (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

1 : to form or move in waves : fluctuate

2 : to rise and fall in volume, pitch, or cadence

3 : to present a wavy appearance

transitive verb

: to cause to move in a wavy, sinuous, or flowing manner

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Choose the Right Synonym for undulate


swing, sway, oscillate, vibrate, fluctuate, waver, undulate mean to move from one direction to its opposite. swing implies a movement of something attached at one end or one side. the door suddenly swung open sway implies a slow swinging or teetering movement. trees swaying in the breeze oscillate stresses a usually regular alternation of direction. an oscillating fan vibrate suggests the rapid oscillation of an elastic body under stress or impact. the vibrating strings of a piano fluctuate suggests constant irregular changes of level, intensity, or value. fluctuating interest rates waver stresses irregular motion suggestive of reeling or tottering. the exhausted runner wavered before collapsing undulate suggests a gentle wavelike motion. an undulating sea of grass

Make Waves With the History of Undulate


Undulate and "inundate" are word cousins, sharing "unda," the Latin word for "wave," as their common ancestor. No surprise there. But would you have guessed that "abound," "surround," and "redound" are also "unda" offspring? The connection between "unda" and these words is easier to see when you learn that at some point in their early histories each of them essentially had the meaning of "to overflow"-a meaning that "inundate" still carries, along with its "overwhelm" sense.

Examples of undulate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

As the voice of a young boy sings a treble solo, Calvin Richardson begins a slow, swirling solo, often dropping to the floor, then propelling himself back up with curving, undulating momentum. Roslyn Sulcas, New York Times, "Review: An American in London (Bernstein, That Is)," 16 Mar. 2018 His vocal melodies climb, stab and undulate in appealing and memorable ways. John Adamian, courant.com, "Andrew McMahon To Play The Webster Theater," 2 June 2018 Somehow, the score undulated among jazz, blues, classical, Chinese, Indian and West African idioms with surprising ease and persuasiveness. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Chicago Jazz Philharmonic delivers urgent message with 'Chicago Immigrant Stories'," 15 June 2018 Sheer cliffs jut out over the landscape and distant hills and mountains undulate on the horizon. Peter Marteka, courant.com, "Hikers, Are You Up To The Challenge Of These 14 Trails?," 15 May 2018 The asphalt undulated left and right, with an occasional dip before the far-off turn. Robert Duffer, chicagotribune.com, "Best affordable sports car? 2017 Honda Civic Si," 7 Sep. 2017 Woven oak staves undulate across the ceiling like an inverted Andes mountain range. Craig Laban, Philly.com, "At Vista Peru, a view of promise, pisco and problems," 18 May 2018 Shirtless men leap and twirl and glisten with sweat, and belly-button-baring women undulate their stomachs like waves. Andrea Simakis, cleveland.com, "It's a bumpy ride back to the boy-crazy '60s for the 6-woman cast of Great Lakes Theater's 'Beehive' (review)," 10 May 2018 The three columns of protesters undulated toward the cathedral on Managua's south side like giant anacondas of blue-and-white, the colors of the Nicaraguan national flag that nearly all the demonstrators waved. Glenn Garvin, miamiherald, "Tens of thousands gather for anti-government demonstration in Nicaragua | Miami Herald," 28 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'undulate.' 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 undulate


1658, in the meaning defined above


1664, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for undulate


Latin undulatus, from *undula, diminutive of unda wave — more at water


Late Latin undula small wave, from Latin *undula

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Time Traveler for undulate

The first known use of undulate was in 1658

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More Definitions for undulate



English Language Learners Definition of undulate

: to move or be shaped like waves


un·​du·​late | \ˈən-jə-ˌlāt, -də-, -dyə-\
undulated; undulating

Kids Definition of undulate

: to move in or as if in a wavy or flowing way The curtains were streamers, undulating from the breeze …— Gail Carson Levine, Ella Enchanted


un·​du·​late | \ˈən-jə-lət, ˈən-d(y)ə-, -ˌlāt \

Medical Definition of undulate 

: having a wavy surface, edge, or markings an undulate cell

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Comments on undulate

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


obstinately defiant of authority

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