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 When their virtual snake couldn't undulate in the air, its body would fall. Fox News, "Mystery of how flying snakes move is solved by scientists," 29 June 2020 To help people cope, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is offering an online Morning MeditOcean, during which jellyfish soothingly undulate across the screen. Sara Harrison, Wired, "Why Stress-Baking and Cleaning Make You Less Anxious," 27 Mar. 2020 Homecoming is both an immersive and engrossing 360-degree experience that places viewers onstage with the indefatigable Queen Bey and her synchronized army of undulating singers, dancers and musicians. Gail Mitchell, Billboard, "Beyoncé Raises the Bar With 'Homecoming' Concert Film: Five Takeaways," 17 Apr. 2019 These whales could no longer paddle with their legs and relied more on undulating their spines to move through the water. Riley Black, Smithsonian, "Ancient Whale Fossil Helps Detail How the Mammals Took From Land to Sea," 11 Dec. 2019 Palmroth and her colleagues studied the dunes and noticed that in addition to their horizontal alignment, the lights appeared to undulate like a wave in the night sky. NBC News, "A new aurora? Researchers say 'the dunes' aren't like the usual lights in the sky," 29 Jan. 2020 Visitors are welcome to walk through, around and under the installation, with the tubes gently undulating under pressure and contact. Raisa Bruner, Time, "BTS' Latest Power Move Is Connecting People Through Major Works of Public Art," 6 Feb. 2020 The words undulate outward from the globe, capturing the seismic potency of the movement, the ubiquity of women’s experience, the universality of the problem. BostonGlobe.com, "parents complained its sun-heated bronze was “burning” children.," 13 Nov. 2019 She was provided with a hospital bed that undulated to prevent bed sores. Wesley J. Smith, National Review, "Congress Should Pass the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act," 27 Sep. 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.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undulate. Accessed 14 Jul. 2020.

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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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