un·​du·​late | \ ˈən-jə-lət How to pronounce undulate (audio) , ˈən-dyə-, ˈən-də-, -ˌlāt\
variants: or undulated \ ˈən-​jə-​ˌlā-​təd How to pronounce undulated (audio) , 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 How to pronounce undulate (audio) , 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 Thick smoke fills the musky air as sweaty bodies undulate to the groove beneath faux vines and a collections of disco balls, with sounds ranging from groovy house and disco to hard-hitting techno. Katey Ceccarelli, Billboard, "Where to Dance In: Atlanta," 29 Oct. 2019 Outside El Paso in the far reaches of western Texas, where the population density dips to the lowest in the state, undulating brown mountains rise out of the desert. Naomi Xu Elegant, Fortune, "How 2 American Rare Earth Companies Are Looking Past the Trade War—to Prepare for the Tech War," 10 Sep. 2019 And while Tame Impala goes backward, the audience undulated forward, entranced by digital vistas, orbs, infinite roads and a nonstop laser light show that aimed to induce altered states. Chris Kelly, Washington Post, "Tame Impala’s freak flag flies at half-staff at Anthem show," 25 Aug. 2019 Just take a breath, listen to the crickets and enjoy the lights slowly undulating from green to purple to orange and back again. Los Angeles Times, "Here’s the best way to experience the ‘Field of Light’ in Paso Robles," 16 Sep. 2019 Dancer Shelby Moran undulates her hips and pulses her back on the Pritzker’s wide, honey-hued stage next to Muntu Dance Theatre’s Paul Cotton, playing djembe. Lauren Warnecke, chicagotribune.com, "SummerDance Celebration was a perfect day in the park, plus a plea for Chicagoans to see more dance indoors this fall," 24 Aug. 2019 The space-time filling the region inside the bottle—a continuum that bends and undulates, producing the force called gravity—exactly maps to a network of quantum particles living on the bottle’s rigid, gravity-free surface. Wired, "Is the Universe a Hologram? Maybe! This Math Trick Shows How," 24 Feb. 2019 The space-time filling the region inside the bottle — a continuum that bends and undulates, producing the force called gravity — exactly maps to a network of quantum particles living on the bottle’s rigid, gravity-free surface. Quanta Magazine, "How Our Universe Could Emerge as a Hologram," 21 Feb. 2019 By the time Futhu returned, Dunse Para was undulating with fear. New York Times, "The Schoolteacher and the Genocide," 8 Aug. 2019

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of undulate was in 1658

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Cite this Entry

“Undulate.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undulates. Accessed 21 November 2019.

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More Definitions for undulate


How to pronounce undulate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of undulate

formal : to move or be shaped like waves


un·​du·​late | \ ˈən-jə-ˌlāt How to pronounce undulate (audio) , -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 How to pronounce undulate (audio) , ˈən-d(y)ə- How to pronounce undulate (audio) , -ˌlāt How to pronounce undulate (audio) \

Medical Definition of undulate

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on undulate

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for undulate

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with undulate

Spanish Central: Translation of undulate

Nglish: Translation of undulate for Spanish Speakers

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