See also: Pulse and pulsé



A person having their radial pulse (the pulse at their wrist, sense 1.1) taken.

Etymology 1Edit

From Late Middle English pulse, Middle English pous, pouse (regular beat of arteries, pulse; heartbeat; place on the body where a pulse is detectable; beat (of a musical instrument); energy, vitality) [and other forms],[1] from Anglo-Norman puls, pous, pus, and Middle French pouls, poulz, pous [and other forms], Old French pous, pulz (regular beat of arteries; place on the body where a pulse is detectable) (modern French pouls), and from their etymon Latin pulsus (beat, impulse, pulse, stroke; regular beat of arteries or the heart), from pellō (to drive, impel, propel, push; to banish, eject, expel; to set in motion; to strike) (ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *pel- (to beat, strike; to drive; to push, thrust)) + -sus (a variant of -tus (suffix forming action nouns from verbs)).[2]


pulse (plural pulses)

  1. (physiology)
    1. A normally regular beat felt when arteries near the skin (for example, at the neck or wrist) are depressed, caused by the heart pumping blood through them.
    2. The nature or rate of this beat as an indication of a person's health.
      Her pulse was thready and weak.
      • 1764, “№ XXVII. A Dissertation on the Pulse, and the Dijudication Drawn therefrom.”, in The Medical Museum: Or, A Repository of Cases, Experiments, Researches, and Discoveries Collected at Home and Abroad [], volume III, London: [] W. Richardson and S. Clark; and sold by W. Bristow, [], OCLC 877634561, page 216:
        [A] Pulſe which is ſlow and large denotes ſufficient remains of ſtrength, tenſion, and thickneſs of the fibres of the heart and arteries, and a viſcid and tenacious blood. All unequal Pulſes are very bad, ſince they denote that there is neither a due influx of the ſpirits, nor a proper and equal mixture of the blood; but particularly ſuch Pulſes always prognoſticate unlucky events, when they are weak.
      • 1870 May 21, Thomas Cash, “United Kingdom Band of Hope Union. Annual Conference.”, in The Temperance Record. The Organ of the National Temperance League, number 738, London: William Tweedie, [], OCLC 989115199, page 247, column 2:
        [M]y experience is that men may enjoy better health, do more work, have clearer brains, a steadier pulse, and go on to old age better without alcohol than with.
  2. (figuratively) A beat or throb; also, a repeated sequence of such beats or throbs.
  3. (figuratively) The focus of energy or vigour of an activity, place, or thing; also, the feeling of bustle, busyness, or energy in a place; the heartbeat.
    You can really feel the pulse of the city in this district.
  4. (chiefly biology, chemistry) An (increased) amount of a substance (such as a drug or an isotopic label) given over a short time.
  5. (cooking, chiefly attributively) A setting on a food processor which causes it to work in a series of short bursts rather than continuously, in order to break up ingredients without liquidizing them; also, a use of this setting.
  6. (music, prosody) The beat or tactus of a piece of music or verse; also, a repeated sequence of such beats.
  7. (physics)
    1. A brief burst of electromagnetic energy, such as light, radio waves, etc.
      • 1969, “[Scientific Progress in F[iscal] Y[ear] 69: Electronics] The Photon Echo”, in Jacob Seiden, editor, OAR Progress for 1969 (OAR 69-0017; AD 699300), Arlington, Va.: Office of Aerospace Research, United States Air Force, OCLC 5352239, page 71, column 1:
        A thin ruby crystal is illuminated by two successive intense short pulses of coherent light, t seconds apart, obtained from a ruby-laser source. As expected, the crystal will transmit the two pulses t seconds apart. But then one observes a curious additional feature: a third light pulse emerges spontanously from the crystal about t seconds following the second pulse, and still relatively intense.
    2. Synonym of autosoliton (a stable solitary localized structure that arises in nonlinear spatially extended dissipative systems due to mechanisms of self-organization)
    3. (also electronics) A brief increase in the strength of an electrical signal; an impulse.
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See alsoEdit

Etymology 2Edit

From Late Middle English pulse, Middle English pulsen (to pulse, throb),[3] from Latin pulsāre, the present active infinitive of pulsō (to push; to beat, batter, hammer, strike; to knock on; to pulsate; (figuratively) to drive or urge on, impel; to move; to agitate, disquiet, disturb), the frequentative of pellō (to drive, impel, propel, push; to banish, eject, expel; to set in motion; to strike);[4] see further at etymology 1.


pulse (third-person singular simple present pulses, present participle pulsing, simple past and past participle pulsed)

  1. (transitive, also figuratively) To emit or impel (something) in pulses or waves.
  2. (transitive, chiefly biology, chemistry) To give to (something, especially a cell culture) an (increased) amount of a substance, such as a drug or an isotopic label, over a short time.
  3. (transitive, cooking) To operate a food processor on (some ingredient) in short bursts, to break it up without liquidizing it.
  4. (transitive, electronics, physics)
    1. To apply an electric current or signal that varies in strength to (something).
    2. To manipulate (an electric current, electromagnetic wave, etc.) so that it is emitted in pulses.
  5. (intransitive, chiefly figuratively and literary) To expand and contract repeatedly, like an artery when blood is flowing though it, or the heart; to beat, to throb, to vibrate, to pulsate.
    Synonym: undulate
    Hot blood pulsed through my veins as I grew angrier.
    The streets were dark, and all that could be seen was light pulsing from the disco.
    • 1849, A[ndrew] J[ames] Symington, “To Mademoiselle Jenny Lind”, in Harebell Chimes: Or Summer Memories and Musings, London: Houlston and Stoneman; Edinburgh: W[illia]m Blackwood and Sons, OCLC 59221221, stanza 5, page 139:
      As pulseth in thy northern skies / Th' Aurora—so, in ecstasies, / Through starry maze, my spirit flies; [...]
    • 1864, James Thomson, “Vane’s Story”, in Vane’s Story, Weddah and Om-El-Bonain, and Other Poems, London: Reeves and Turner, [], published 1881, OCLC 1029694872, the story, page 54:
      None dare awake the deep affright / That pulseth in the heart of night, [...]
    • 1867, Arthur H[enry] W[innington] Ingram, “To a Squirrel”, in The Doom of the Gods of Hellas, and Other Poems, London: A. W. Bennett, [], OCLC 32139773, page 57:
      Come, descend to lower station! / We are of the same creation, / And the life that all sustains / Pulseth in our purple veins: [...]
    • 1887 February 3, F. V., “O Heart Divine!”, in Lyman Abbott and Hamilton W[right] Mabie, editors, The Christian Union, volume 35, number 5, New York, N.Y.: The Christian Union Company, OCLC 6775195, page 31, column 2:
      O Heart Divine, that pulsest through all space, / Why dost Thou seem so far away and cold? / We miss the pressure of the arms that fold; / We long to hear Thy voice, to see Thy face. [From the New Orleans Times-Democrat.]
  6. (intransitive, figuratively) Of an activity, place, or thing: to bustle with energy and liveliness; to pulsate.
Derived termsEdit
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Etymology 3Edit

The broad bean or fava bean (Vicia faba), a species of pulse (sense 1).
Red, green, and Puy lentils, which are types of pulses (sense 2).

From Middle English puls ((collectively) seeds of a leguminous plant used as food; leguminous plants collectively; a species of leguminous plant), Early Middle English pols (in compounds),[5] possibly from Anglo-Norman pus, puz, Middle French pouls, pols, pous, and Old French pous, pou (gruel, mash, porridge) (perhaps in the sense of a gruel made from pulses), or directly from their etymon Latin puls (meal (coarse-ground edible part of various grains); porridge), probably from Ancient Greek πόλτος (póltos, porridge made from flour), from Proto-Indo-European *pel- (dust; flour) (perhaps by extension from *pel- (to beat, strike; to drive; to push, thrust), in the sense of something beaten).[6]


pulse (countable and uncountable, plural pulses)

  1. (uncountable) Annual leguminous plants (such as beans, lentils, and peas) yielding grains or seeds used as food for humans or animals; (countable) such a plant; a legume.
  2. (uncountable) Edible grains or seeds from leguminous plants, especially in a mature, dry condition; (countable) a specific kind of such a grain or seed.


  1. ^ pǒus(e, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  2. ^ Compare “pulse, n.2”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, December 2007; “pulse1, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  3. ^ pulsen, v.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  4. ^ Compare “pulse, v.”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2007; “pulse1, v.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.
  5. ^ puls, n.”, in MED Online, Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan, 2007.
  6. ^ Compare “pulse, n.1”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, September 2007; “pulse2, n.”, in Lexico,; Oxford University Press, 2019–present.

Further readingEdit





  1. (archaic) singular present subjunctive of pulsen




  1. vocative masculine singular of pulsus




  1. first-person singular present subjunctive of pulsar
  2. third-person singular present subjunctive of pulsar
  3. first-person singular imperative of pulsar
  4. third-person singular imperative of pulsar




  1. Formal second-person singular (usted) imperative form of pulsar.
  2. First-person singular (yo) present subjunctive form of pulsar.
  3. Formal second-person singular (usted) present subjunctive form of pulsar.
  4. Third-person singular (él, ella, also used with usted?) present subjunctive form of pulsar.