Definition of modulate in US English:



[with object]
  • 1Exert a modifying or controlling influence on.

    ‘the state attempts to modulate private business's cash flow’
    • ‘The release of the agent is prolonged over a period of time, and the delivery may be modulated and/or controlled.’
    • ‘Nowadays, our views of the architectural landscape are modulated by the accelerator pedal and the remote control.’
    • ‘How might regulatory thin filaments modulate kinetic steps associated with the cross-bridge cycle?’
    • ‘Outsourcing provides the flexibility necessary for a company to modulate its activities, control its burn rate, and stop and start projects quickly.’
    • ‘And the people who have this disorder have also a disturbancing modifying or modulating emotional response and sometimes it can be quite violent.’
    • ‘Immunonutrients have been shown to upregulate host immune response, to control inflammatory response, and to modulate nitrogen balance and protein synthesis after injury.’
    • ‘This transition is under endogenous control, but is modulated by more or less favourable environmental conditions which shorten or lengthen this period.’
    • ‘The fuel injector is pulse-width modulated to control the fuel delivery and therefore the heat input, in order to maintain a preset filter inlet gas temperature.’
    • ‘Much of this effort will be directed, in one form or other, at modulating the regulatory systems controlling physiological systems.’
    • ‘This influence works both by modulating endocrine function such as insulin secretion and by increasing the rate of glycogenolysis and fatty acid mobilization.’
    • ‘In contrast, the monopolar device uses a thermocouple imbedded in its tip to control the surface temperature of the probe by modulating the power delivery.’
    • ‘It has occasionally purchased this labor through limited immigration, which it modulates and controls, often in ridiculous ways.’
    • ‘Receptor-ligand bonds that mediate cell adhesion are often subjected to forces that regulate their dissociation via modulating off-rates.’
    • ‘Instead, in coastal waters, responses to light are modulated by other environmental influences, such as pressure, salinity, or temperature.’
    • ‘Serotonin also regulates or modulates a variety of behaviors in many animal species, including aggression, feeding, learning, locomotion, sleep, and mood.’
    • ‘Methods and apparatuses for display systems which modulate a control electrode to cause an electro-optic layer to be reset to a state in which display data is not viewable.’
    • ‘Of course, any attempt to modulate the activity of these enzymes requires an understanding of the catalytic steps at the molecular level.’
    • ‘Members can modulate the controls or turn them off.’
    • ‘Social influences also operate to modulate nicotine's effects.’
    • ‘Generally more economical shower controls modulate only temperature.’
    regulate, adjust, set, attune, balance, harmonize, temper, modify, moderate
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    1. 1.1 Vary the strength, tone, or pitch of (one's voice)
      ‘we all modulate our voice by hearing it’
      • ‘‘Uh, I don't know that I wish to discuss that with you,’ I respond, modulating my tones to imply he's being left out on some juicy gossip.’
      • ‘A barely audible, beautifully modulated voice recounts some mundane or tragic moment, as it relays from one audio station to another.’
      • ‘When she speaks, and she is a dramatic storyteller, her voice seems modulated to correspond to the mood of the moment with an exacting precision.’
      • ‘The four poems published here, found among his papers-and dated to signal they were finished-are moving in the way the voice modulates from one to the next.’
      • ‘In this respect he is closer to stand up comedian than exponent of crime cinema, enacting all the parts in his sketches with one variously modulated voice.’
      • ‘Sue had commented how differently from my father I spoke, she said that all my sentences were perfectly formed as they came out, with my voice modulated.’
      • ‘The way one modulates the voice, its pitch, tone and tenor to speak to different persons is nothing but mimicry.’
      • ‘And, like any good schoolteacher, she modulates her voice to great effect; during moments of particular drama, she is known for speaking to juries in a barely audible whisper.’
      • ‘He modulated his voice to sound like a witch of popular legend - high, scratchy, and cracked.’
      • ‘Ethan questioned her, a hint of irritation in his deeply modulated voice.’
      • ‘The man could modulate his voice into a great variety of tones, booming, hushed, lyrical, penitent, frightened.’
      • ‘In general, the successful seducers paid more attention to and were more nuanced in modulating the prosodic aspects of their voices than were the unsuccessful seducers.’
      • ‘She stared and directed her resonant voice into the distance as if to an unseen audience, and modulated her tones like an orator.’
      • ‘His eyes gleamed hellishly in his red face: but the voice was rich, modulated, booming and kindly.’
      • ‘This sound or ‘voice’ is modulated and modified by structures like the lips, tongue and palate to produce decipherable speech.’
      • ‘His voice was well modulated, and his speech slow and strongly articulated.’
      • ‘At first his voice starts to modulate like a radio.’
      • ‘But the carefully modulated tones of this career diplomat were not the red meat that Fleet Street desired.’
      adjust, change the tone of, vary, inflect
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 Alter the amplitude or frequency of (an electromagnetic wave or other oscillation) in accordance with the variations of a second signal, typically one of a lower frequency.
      ‘radio waves are modulated to carry the analog information of the voice’
      • ‘Rolling the ball turns the chopper wheels, which in turn modulate the signal received by the photodetectors.’
      • ‘Since the signals the service personnel will be working with are digitally modulated analog carriers, new test equipment and measurement metrics are needed.’
      • ‘The x-ray photons trigger the ejection of krypton electrons with varying angular distributions of momenta modulated by the oscillating laser field.’
      • ‘The signal can be modulated in either amplitude or frequency to carry data.’
      • ‘Method and apparatus for transmitting broadband amplitude modulated radio frequency signals over optical links’
      • ‘As is proposed to be the case for the plant photoreceptors, this oscillation may modulate light resetting of the clock and affect the shape of the phase response curve.’
      • ‘The operation on a previously modulated wave in such a way that it will have substantially the same characteristics as the original modulating wave.’
      • ‘Each laser source modulates the input signal onto a wavelength that is distinct from a wavelength of each other laser source.’
      • ‘Multiple radio channel frequency signals that are modulated with respective information modulation are transmitted from a common antenna at multiple radio frequencies.’
      • ‘The chip then modulates the waves that the tag sends back to the reader and the reader converts the new waves into digital data.’
      • ‘During external to internal communication, an external modulator modulates the carrier signal with information contained in the external communication device.’
      • ‘All these signals are modulated, multiplexed, layered, and intermixed into a cacophanous soup - but one that none of our natural senses can detect.’
      • ‘The duty cycle is variably selectable with either first or second pulse width modulated frequency.’
      • ‘Digital data encoding in video signals using data modulated carrier signals at non-peaks in video spectra’
      • ‘A method and apparatus for equalizing a received quadrature amplitude modulated signal is disclosed.’
      • ‘The amplitude gain is determined by the detected photocurrent, which is used to modulate the amplitude of the local oscillator.’
      • ‘In the present system, a current supply modulates both diode lasers at different frequencies so that their aerosol scatter signals may be distinguished.’
      • ‘Glucose modulates the fluorescent signal by binding reversibly to the boronic acid component attached to the quencher molecule.’
      • ‘The apparatus is advantageously used in an interferometer to form a device that modulates the amplitude of the optical signal.’
      • ‘Then a biphasic pulse was sent through each cell simultaneously, which was then modulated to reflect the pixel value.’
    3. 1.3Music no object Change from one key to another.
      ‘the first half of the melody, modulating from E minor to G’
      • ‘Students should examine the cadences and identify the key to which it modulates.’
      • ‘Having the accompanying instrumentalists modulate to a higher key on the final stanza of a hymn, or adding a choral descant or special choral ending to the hymn, can add interest to the singing.’
      • ‘In any case, this limits a composer's ability to modulate on the piano, where players can't adjust intonation, except crudely and awkwardly, while they perform.’
      • ‘Each of the first movements is, in its way, a grand synthesis of ritornello and sonata form: only one, K.449, modulates out of the home key in the opening tutti.’
      • ‘However, there were exceptions; Domenico Scarlatti, for example, sometimes chose to modulate to the mediant at the end of the first section.’
    4. 1.4modulate intono object Change from one form or condition into (another)
      ‘ideals and opinions are not modulated into authoritative journalese’
      • ‘It is likely that the military activity will have to modulate into the form of intensive, highly militarised policing which characterised the last 30 years in Northern Ireland.’
      • ‘What follows is a series of reflections on the assumptions and purposes of cultural musicology, which are meant to modulate into reflections on music and musical experience more broadly.’
      • ‘After she first leaves home, Janet's guilty sense of her own destructiveness modulates into a series of strange eating disorders.’
      • ‘The data is then formatted with the proper timing marks and modulated into a digital serial stream.’
      • ‘Usually a poem begins in a conversational manner and modulates into intense lyricism.’
      • ‘After this opening, the images of aggression modulate into images that expose the force of her wisdom and erotic energy.’
      • ‘Alliteration intensifies the tension, as the double hardness of c's modulates into the sibilance of ‘soule to sence.’’
      • ‘This sound is then modulated into speech by the precise movements of the tongue and lips.’
      • ‘This morning I'd allowed my gazing into space to modulate into a full-scale reverie, and I'd lost track completely.’
      • ‘In later writings they modulate into fables, culminating in the brilliant Kafkaesque miniatures of With One Skin Less.’


Mid 16th century (in the sense ‘intone a song’): from Latin modulat- ‘measured, made melody’, from the verb modulari, from modulus ‘measure’ (see modulus).