undulate

1 of 2

adjective

un·​du·​late ˈən-jə-lət How to pronounce undulate (audio) ˈən-dyə- How to pronounce undulate (audio)
ˈən-də-,
-ˌlāt How to pronounce undulate (audio)
variants or undulated
ˈən-jə-ˌlā-təd How to pronounce undulate (audio)
ˈən-dyə-,
ˈən-də-
: having a wavy surface, edge, or markings
the undulate margin of a leaf

undulate

2 of 2

verb

un·​du·​late ˈən-jə-ˌlāt How to pronounce undulate (audio)
ˈən-dyə-,
ˈən-də-
undulated; undulating

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

Did you know?

Make Waves With the History of Undulate

Undulate and inundate (“to cover something with a flood of water”) are word cousins that flow from unda, the Latin word for “wave.” No surprise there. But would you have guessed that abound, surround, and redound are also unda offspring? While their modern definitions have nothing to do with waves or water, at some point in their early histories, they all meant “to overflow,” and caught a wave from there.

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

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
Dirt roads undulate through the maples and beeches and pines, now dipping toward a river or stream, now climbing to afford a stunning view of the White Mountains. Bill Donahue, BostonGlobe.com, 19 Jan. 2023 Some of them undulate with beautiful colors, but cute?... Christie Wilcox, Discover Magazine, 3 Sep. 2015 During that initial session, Chinonye and I worked on it several times to get to the heart of what that moment represented and how that scene can undulate the examination of Mamie’s emotions. Rita Omokha, ELLE, 13 Oct. 2022 While other elements of BYU football undulate up and down and all around, Hall is calmly there, come what may. Gordon Monson, The Salt Lake Tribune, 30 Sep. 2022 These fluffy boa-type feathers undulate beautifully in the water and make your fly look alive. Aleta Burchyski, Outside Online, 20 May 2020 Dots undulate, bubble up, then dissolve into the depths below my cellphone screen. New York Times, 29 Mar. 2022 For miles, the soft green slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains undulate, fading into a honeyed patchwork of farmland and forest that kiss the horizon. Washington Post, 26 Feb. 2022 Thousands of variously sized glass marbles, arranged on a dark, round mat, seem to undulate like boiling water, or maybe spacetime in a black hole. Laura Hudson, Wired, 16 Nov. 2021 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

Adjective

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

Verb

Late Latin undula small wave, from Latin *undula

First Known Use

Adjective

1658, in the meaning defined above

Verb

1664, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of undulate was in 1658

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Dictionary Entries Near undulate

Cite this Entry

“Undulate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/undulate. Accessed 31 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

undulate

verb
un·​du·​late
ˈən-jə-ˌlāt,
ˈən-d(y)ə-
undulated; undulating
1
: to form or move in waves : fluctuate
2
: to rise and fall in volume, pitch, or rhythm
3
: to present a wavy appearance

Medical Definition

undulate

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

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