vi·​brate ˈvī-ˌbrāt How to pronounce vibrate (audio)
 especially British  vī-ˈbrāt
vibrated; vibrating

transitive verb

: to swing or move to and fro
: to emit with or as if with a vibratory motion
: to mark or measure by oscillation
a pendulum vibrating seconds
: to set in vibration

intransitive verb

: to move to and fro or from side to side : oscillate
: fluctuate, vacillate
vibrate between two choices
: to have an effect as or as if of vibration
music, when soft voices die, vibrates in the memoryP. B. Shelley
: to be in a state of vibration : quiver
: to respond sympathetically : thrill
vibrate to the opportunity
Choose the Right Synonym for vibrate

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

Examples of vibrate in a Sentence

The car started to vibrate. When you blow into the instrument, the air vibrates the reed.
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These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'vibrate.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin vibratus, past participle of vibrare to brandish, wave, rock — more at wipe

First Known Use

1616, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of vibrate was in 1616

Dictionary Entries Near vibrate

Cite this Entry

“Vibrate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


vi·​brate ˈvī-ˌbrāt How to pronounce vibrate (audio)
vibrated; vibrating
: to move or cause to move back and forth or from side to side rapidly so as to produce a quivering effect or sound
guitar strings vibrate when plucked

More from Merriam-Webster on vibrate

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