First attested in verbal use in 1922 and in nominal use in 2000; formed as octav(e) +‎ -ate, in the musical sense after the French octavier.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɒktəveɪt/, /ˈɒkteɪveɪt/


octavate (third-person singular simple present octavates, present participle octavating, simple past and past participle octavated)

  1. (music) To sound one octave higher or lower.
    1. (intransitive, of an instrument) To resonate or sound one octave higher or lower.
      • 1922, Diran Alexanian [aut.] and Frederick Fairbanks [tr.], Complete Cello Technique (2003 repub.), page 105
        The string, originally divided, will continue for some time to “octavate”.
      • 1947, Ernest Closson [aut.] and Delano Ames [tr.], History of the Piano, page 64
        Adolphe Sax, when he invented the saxophone, had at first only in mind the object of improving the clarinet by permitting it to ‘octavate.’
      • 1948, The Galpin Society Journal I–IV, page 69
        Octavate’ (i.e. overblow at the octave. Does decimate mean to overblow at the tenth? Is the Primate the fundamental note of an instrument?).
      • 1957, Marin Mersenne [aut.] and Roger Eddington Chapman [tr.], Harmonie Universelle, page 305
        When it octavates, the holes being closed, it often assumes its natural pitch again on opening the holes, instead of continuing its tones to the octave above, so that it octavates much more easily when the holes are closed than when they are unstopped.
    2. (intransitive, of a person) To span (at least) one octave in playing a musical instrument.
      • 1984, VdGSA News XXI–XXIV, page 39
        Ability to ornament, octavate, play chords and do some improvising.
      • 2004, Deutschland, page 23
        He varies and octavates, leaving Bach listeners thunderstruck.
      • 2007, Michael Gallant, “OCTAVATE!: Spread your hands to create powerful sounds.” in Keyboard XXXIII–XXXIV, page unknown
    3. (transitive, rare, of an instrument, construed with up) To double the pitch of (a part of itself).
      • 1999, Jon Chappell, The Recording Guitarist, page 133
        A 12-string doubles the octaves of only the lower four strings…. A doubled, capoed guitar “octavates up” the top two strings.
  2. (mathematics, rare) To convert (the expression of a number) from denary to octal notation.
    • 1949, The American Mathematical Monthly LVI, page 463
      To octavate the number one hundred the reasoning is as follows. The square of eight goes into one hundred once with remainder thirty-six. This remainder contains eight to the first power four times with remainder four. Hence to express one hundred to the base 8 we write the digits 144 which in somewhat longer form may be put as 100 = 1×8² + 4×8 + 4.


  • (mathematics: convert from denary to octal notation): decimate

Derived termsEdit

Related termsEdit



octavate (plural octavates)

  1. (rare) octave (transfiguratively)
    • 2000, Supriya Kumar Bhattacharjee, Handbook of Aromatic Plants, page 18
      There is an octavate of odours as well as octavates of notes in music. Like the keys of instruments, certain odours coincide or blend.