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’
    • ‘Outsourcing provides the flexibility necessary for a company to modulate its activities, control its burn rate, and stop and start projects quickly.’
    • ‘Nowadays, our views of the architectural landscape are modulated by the accelerator pedal and the remote control.’
    • ‘It has occasionally purchased this labor through limited immigration, which it modulates and controls, often in ridiculous ways.’
    • ‘Serotonin also regulates or modulates a variety of behaviors in many animal species, including aggression, feeding, learning, locomotion, sleep, and mood.’
    • ‘How might regulatory thin filaments modulate kinetic steps associated with the cross-bridge cycle?’
    • ‘Immunonutrients have been shown to upregulate host immune response, to control inflammatory response, and to modulate nitrogen balance and protein synthesis after injury.’
    • ‘Much of this effort will be directed, in one form or other, at modulating the regulatory systems controlling physiological systems.’
    • ‘Instead, in coastal waters, responses to light are modulated by other environmental influences, such as pressure, salinity, or temperature.’
    • ‘Generally more economical shower controls modulate only temperature.’
    • ‘This influence works both by modulating endocrine function such as insulin secretion and by increasing the rate of glycogenolysis and fatty acid mobilization.’
    • ‘Of course, any attempt to modulate the activity of these enzymes requires an understanding of the catalytic steps at the molecular level.’
    • ‘The release of the agent is prolonged over a period of time, and the delivery may be modulated and/or controlled.’
    • ‘Members can modulate the controls or turn them off.’
    • ‘Social influences also operate to modulate nicotine's effects.’
    • ‘Receptor-ligand bonds that mediate cell adhesion are often subjected to forces that regulate their dissociation via modulating off-rates.’
    • ‘This transition is under endogenous control, but is modulated by more or less favourable environmental conditions which shorten or lengthen this period.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And the people who have this disorder have also a disturbancing modifying or modulating emotional response and sometimes it can be quite violent.’
    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’
      • ‘At first his voice starts to modulate like a radio.’
      • ‘Ethan questioned her, a hint of irritation in his deeply 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.’
      • ‘His voice was well modulated, and his speech slow and strongly articulated.’
      • ‘The man could modulate his voice into a great variety of tones, booming, hushed, lyrical, penitent, frightened.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘He modulated his voice to sound like a witch of popular legend - high, scratchy, and cracked.’
      • ‘She stared and directed her resonant voice into the distance as if to an unseen audience, and modulated her tones like an orator.’
      • ‘The way one modulates the voice, its pitch, tone and tenor to speak to different persons is nothing but mimicry.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘But the carefully modulated tones of this career diplomat were not the red meat that Fleet Street desired.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘A barely audible, beautifully modulated voice recounts some mundane or tragic moment, as it relays from one audio station to another.’
      • ‘‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      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’
      • ‘A method and apparatus for equalizing a received quadrature amplitude modulated signal is disclosed.’
      • ‘Multiple radio channel frequency signals that are modulated with respective information modulation are transmitted from a common antenna at multiple radio frequencies.’
      • ‘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 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’
      • ‘During external to internal communication, an external modulator modulates the carrier signal with information contained in the external communication device.’
      • ‘The x-ray photons trigger the ejection of krypton electrons with varying angular distributions of momenta modulated by the oscillating laser field.’
      • ‘The chip then modulates the waves that the tag sends back to the reader and the reader converts the new waves into digital data.’
      • ‘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 amplitude gain is determined by the detected photocurrent, which is used to modulate the amplitude of the local oscillator.’
      • ‘The apparatus is advantageously used in an interferometer to form a device that modulates the amplitude of the optical signal.’
      • ‘Glucose modulates the fluorescent signal by binding reversibly to the boronic acid component attached to the quencher molecule.’
      • ‘Method and apparatus for transmitting broadband amplitude modulated radio frequency signals over optical links’
      • ‘All these signals are modulated, multiplexed, layered, and intermixed into a cacophanous soup - but one that none of our natural senses can detect.’
      • ‘In the present system, a current supply modulates both diode lasers at different frequencies so that their aerosol scatter signals may be distinguished.’
      • ‘Then a biphasic pulse was sent through each cell simultaneously, which was then modulated to reflect the pixel value.’
      • ‘The operation on a previously modulated wave in such a way that it will have substantially the same characteristics as the original modulating wave.’
      • ‘The signal can be modulated in either amplitude or frequency to carry data.’
      • ‘Each laser source modulates the input signal onto a wavelength that is distinct from a wavelength of each other laser source.’
    3. 1.3Music no object Change from one key to another.
      ‘the first half of the melody, modulating from E minor to G’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Students should examine the cadences and identify the key to which it modulates.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘However, there were exceptions; Domenico Scarlatti, for example, sometimes chose to modulate to the mediant at the end of the first section.’
      • ‘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.’
    4. 1.4modulate intono object Change from one form or condition into (another)
      ‘ideals and opinions are not modulated into authoritative journalese’
      • ‘After she first leaves home, Janet's guilty sense of her own destructiveness modulates into a series of strange eating disorders.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The data is then formatted with the proper timing marks and modulated into a digital serial stream.’
      • ‘This morning I'd allowed my gazing into space to modulate into a full-scale reverie, and I'd lost track completely.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘After this opening, the images of aggression modulate into images that expose the force of her wisdom and erotic energy.’
      • ‘Usually a poem begins in a conversational manner and modulates into intense lyricism.’
      • ‘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).