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Back-formation from commutation (in the late 19th century), as is commutator (noun) too.


commutate (third-person singular simple present commutates, present participle commutating, simple past and past participle commutated)

  1. (transitive, electronics) To reverse the direction of (a current).
    • 2013, Freidrich Nettel, Comparison of Principal Points of Standards for Electrical Machinea & Transformers: German, British, & American Standards compared, →ISBN, page 19:
      Continuously rated machines shall be required to commutate successfully momentary loads of 150% of the Amperes corresponding to the continuous rating keeping the rheostat set for rated load excitation.
  2. (transitive, electronics) To convert from being or using an alternating current into being or using a direct current.
    • 2009, S.K. Bhattacharya, Fundamentals Of Power Electronics, 1E, →ISBN, page 72:
      In line commutation, advantage of the a.c. supply going through zero value at every half-cycle is taken to commutate the thyristor.
  3. (intransitive, mathematics) To commute; to be invariant under a reversal of the positions of operands.
    • 2012, J. Kittler, V.W. Fu, L.F Pau, Pattern Recognition Theory and Applications, →ISBN, page 194:
      The match of two finite line segments in 2 dimensions requires 2 translations, 1 rotation, 1 scale transformation; the order is here important, and these operators cannot commutate.
  4. (transitive, finance) To commute; to change one kind of payment into another, especially to convert from several installments to a single lumpsum payment.
    • 2012, Stewart, Workers Compensation: Rorting the System Or System Rorted?, →ISBN:
      Ah, commutation. I knew there was something else. This is where you can commutate your weekly payments into a lump sum and be rid of the “system”.
  5. (transitive, law) To remove or reduce the legal obligations or restrictions on
    • 1986, Brian J. Young, In Its Corporate Capacity: The Seminary of Montreal as a Business Institution 1816-1876., →ISBN, page 52:
      Specifically, the seminary was challenged by industrial millers who petitioned to build steam-powered mills and by large Montreal property holders who demanded that the crown commutate their lands.
  6. (transitive) To transform, especially into a reversed or opposite form.
    • 2007, Jeff Rice, The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New Media, →ISBN, page 123:
      Writers change the URIs as they compose because writers commutate and manipulate language to create a variety of rhetorical experiences that can be read at once, as overlapping, or as separate.

Related terms[edit]


Etymology 1[edit]



  1. inflection of commutare:
    1. second-person plural present indicative
    2. second-person plural imperative

Etymology 2[edit]


commutate f pl

  1. feminine plural of commutato




  1. second-person plural present active imperative of commūtō


  • commutate”, in Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short (1879) A Latin Dictionary, Oxford: Clarendon Press
  • commutate in Gaffiot, Félix (1934) Dictionnaire illustré latin-français, Hachette.