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verb (used with object), mod·u·lat·ed, mod·u·lat·ing.
  1. to regulate by or adjust to a certain measure or proportion; soften; tone down.
  2. to alter or adapt (the voice) according to the circumstances, one's listener, etc.
  3. Music.
    1. to attune to a certain pitch or key.
    2. to vary the volume of (tone).
  4. Telecommunications. to cause the amplitude, frequency, phase, or intensity of (a carrier wave) to vary in accordance with a sound wave or other signal, the frequency of the signal wave usually being very much lower than that of the carrier.
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verb (used without object), mod·u·lat·ed, mod·u·lat·ing.
  1. Telecommunications.
    1. to modulate a carrier wave.
    2. Citizens Band Radio Slang.to talk; visit: Enjoyed modulating with you.
  2. Music. to pass from one key to another: to modulate abruptly from A to B flat.
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Origin of modulate

1550–60; < Latin modulātus (past participle of modulārī to regulate (sounds), set to music, play an instrument). See module, -ate1
Related formsmod·u·la·bil·i·ty [moj-uh-luh-bil-i-tee] /ˌmɒdʒ ə ləˈbɪl ɪ ti/, nounmod·u·la·tive, mod·u·la·to·ry [moj-uh-luh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee] /ˈmɒdʒ ə ləˌtɔr i, -ˌtoʊr i/, adjectivere·mod·u·late, verb (used with object), re·mod·u·lat·ed, re·mod·u·lat·ing.un·mod·u·lat·ed, adjectiveun·mod·u·la·tive, adjectivewell-mod·u·lat·ed, adjective

Synonyms for modulate

See more synonyms for on Thesaurus.com
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for modulate

inflect, balance, tone, tweak, fine-tune, vary, revamp, switch, restrain, transmogrify, attune, regulate, temper, tune

Examples from the Web for modulate

Contemporary Examples of modulate

Historical Examples of modulate

  • Is there a curve in it which I can modulate—a line which I can graduate—a vacancy I can fill?

  • To keep back the glances that could enlighten; to modulate the tones that might betray!

    The Man

    Bram Stoker

  • To keep back the glances that could enlighten, to modulate the tones that might betray!

    The Man

    Bram Stoker

  • There is a point in the mad scene where it is easy to modulate into the key of G major.

  • This mirror is not the real organ of sound, but is supposed to modulate it.

British Dictionary definitions for modulate


  1. (tr) to change the tone, pitch, or volume of
  2. (tr) to adjust or regulate the degree of
  3. music
    1. to subject to or undergo modulation in music
    2. (often foll by to)to make or become in tune (with a pitch, key, etc)
  4. (tr) physics electronics to cause to vary by a process of modulation
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Derived Formsmodulability (ˌmɒdjʊləˈbɪlɪtɪ), nounmodulative or modulatory, adjectivemodulator, noun

Word Origin for modulate

C16: from Latin modulātus in due measure, melodious, from modulārī to regulate, from modus measure
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for modulate


1610s, in music, back-formation from modulation, or else from Latin modulatus, past participle of modulari. General sense from 1620s. In telecommunications from 1908. Related: Modulated; modulating.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

modulate in Science


  1. To vary the amplitude, frequency, or some other characteristic of a signal or power source. See also amplitude modulation frequency modulation.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.