From Ancient Greek φωνή (phōnḗ, voice, sound) +‎ -ate (suffix indicating action in a specified manner), modelled after phonation.[1] φωνή is ultimately derived from Proto-Indo-European *bʰeh₂- (to say, speak).



phonate (third-person singular simple present phonates, present participle phonating, simple past and past participle phonated)

  1. (intransitive) To make sounds with the voice.
    • 1873, John Murray, “On Three Peculiar Cases of Molluscum Fibrosum in Children []”, in Medico-chirurgical Transactions, volume LVI, London: Published by the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society of London; Longmans, Green, Reader, and Dyer, [], OCLC 11174459, page 248:
      His voice is perfect; he phonates loudly and well.
    • 1875 July, George M. Lefferts, “Report on Laryngology. No. II.”, in James B. Hunter, editor, The New York Medical Journal: A Monthly Record of Medicine and the Collateral Sciences, volume XXII, number 1, New York, N.Y.: D[aniel] Appleton and Company, [], OCLC 742447623, page 92:
      [A]s soon, however, as the patient endeavored to produce a higher note by phonating forcibly, the vocal cords were stretched unusually tight, the arytenoid cartilages were pressed spasmodically together, and no tone could be heard.
    • 1973, Oliver Sacks, Awakenings, London: Duckworth, →ISBN; republished as Awakenings[1], London: Picador, 2011, →ISBN:
      [O]ne finds patients unable to take a single step, who can dance with consummate ease and grace; patients unable to phonate, or utter a single word, who can sing without any difficulty, bringing to the music all the volume, all the richness and delicacy of intonation, all the feeling, that it demands.
    • 1975, Philip Lieberman, On the Origins of Language: An Introduction to the Evolution of Human Speech, Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, →ISBN, page 44; republished as Philip Lieberman; Sheila E[llen] Blumstein, “Source–filter Theory of Speech Production”, in Speech Physiology, Speech Perception, and Acoustic Phonetics (Cambridge Studies in Speech Science and Communication), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, →ISBN, page 36:
      Adult male speakers can phonate at fundamental frequencies that range between 80 and 300 Hz. Adult females and children normally phonate at fundamental frequencies that range up to about 500 Hz, although the fundamental frequency can go up to 1.5 kHz [...]
    • 1989, H. M. Teager; S. M. Teager, “Evidence for Nonlinear Sound Production Mechanisms in the Vocal Tract”, in William J. Hardcastle and Alain Marchal, editors, Speech Production and Speech Modelling (NATO ASI series, Series D, Behavioural and Social Sciences; 55), Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, DOI:10.1007/978-94-009-2037-8, →ISBN, page 242:
      [A] salesman from DISA came and tried to sell us a hot-wire anemometer. For the pure fun of it, I stuck the hot-wire in my mouth and phonated. I had thought that the actual flows that occurred in the mouth during speech were relatively small and that they would be quite uniform.
    • 1997, Don DeLillo, Underworld: A Novel, New York, N.Y.: Scribner Classics, →ISBN; republished New York, N.Y.: Scribner, 2014, →ISBN, page 543:
      I wanted to look up velleity and quotidian and memorize the fuckers for all time, spell them, learn them, pronounce them syllable by syllable—vocalize, phonate, utter the sounds, say the words for all they're worth.
    • 2011, David Blair McClosky, “The McClosky Technique: Posture and Breathing”, in Your Voice at Its Best: Enhancement of the Healthy Voice, Help for the Troubled Voice, 5th edition, Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press, →ISBN, page 1:
      If we are performing professionally, we must be able to keep on phonating for a long period of time while retaining a fresh, clear, and steady voice.
    • 2014 August 8, Rupert Christiansen, “The truth about falsettos [print version: 12 August 2014, page R8]”, in Jason Seiken, editor, The Daily Telegraph (Review)[2], London: Telegraph Media Group, ISSN 0307-1235, OCLC 635239717, archived from the original on 16 December 2016:
      Basically, I [countertenor Anthony Roth Constanzo] use the same technique as a female mezzo-soprano, with one small physiological difference: I have to narrow my vocal cords to phonate [produce the sound].
  2. (transitive) To use the voice to make (specific sounds).
    • 1876, Bernard Fraenkel, “The General Diagnosis and Therapeutics of Diseases of the Nose, Naso-pharyngeal Space, Pharynx, and Larynx”, in Edward W. Schauffler, transl.; H[ugo Wilhelm] von Ziemssen, editor, Cyclopædia of the Practice of Medicine, volume IV (Diseases of the Respiratory Organs), New York, N.Y.: William Wood and Company, [], OCLC 82493146, page 41:
      [T]he tongue may rise up in the mouth, even while the patient phonates the vowel "a" [eh], in which case it will also need to be depressed by the finger, as just described.
    • 1876 June, George M. Lefferts, “The Modern Methods of Examining the Upper Air Passages”, in E. C. Seguin, editor, A Series of American Clinical Lectures [], volume II, number 6, New York, N.Y.: G[eorge] P[almer] Putnam’s Sons, [], OCLC 646545060, page 177:
      The third and last difficulty [...] is the drawing up of the velum and uvula tightly against the pharyngeal wall, which occurs as soon as the patient opens the mouth widely, or as soon as your instruments are introduced within it; and when you remember that the position that we wish it to assume, the one that it must assume before your examination can be made, is precisely that which it takes when all muscular movement is in abeyance, and that the patient cannot assist you by carrying out any movements or phonating sounds, as he does in laryngoscopy, you will see the difficulty that presents itself.
    • 1967, William Vennard, Singing: The Mechanism and the Technic, 5th edition, New York, N.Y.: Carl Fischer, →ISBN, paragraph 444, page 124:
      Isshiki found that if a singer is asked to phonate Ee, Oo, and Ah at the same loudness he will actually make the Ah much louder than the other two. This is because he gauges loudness by the effort he is using, and in this experiment the subglottal pressure was the same for Ah and Oo, but the Ah was louder because the mouth was more open.
    • 2005, Angel S. Recto, “Language and Writing”, in Foundations of Education: (Anthropological, Psychological, Sociological, and Moral), volume I, Manila: Rex Book Store, →ISBN, section 2.3 (Consonantal Writing System), page 45:
      [S]uch consonants are are pronounced el, em, and en in English; while similar consonants are phonated la, ma, na in Filipino.

Related termsEdit



phonate (not comparable)

  1. voiced



  1. ^ phonate, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, March 2006; “phonate, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further readingEdit