Most commonly, punctuate means to insert standard marks (like periods, commas, and exclamation points) into written sentences.

You punctuate sentences to give the reader additional information, such as when a sentence ends, whether or not that sentence is a question, and when a series of words might be a list. You can also punctuate, or emphasize, your words by shouting them or making them ALL CAPS. Occasionally, this verb can also mean "interrupt periodically," as when your cat walks back and forth across your keyboard, punctuating your writing with "shjkpl;" and "pohjxz."

Primary Meanings of punctuate

insert punctuation marks into
stress; single out as important
Full Definitions of punctuate

v insert punctuation marks into

put quote marks around
Type of:
make an addition (to); join or combine or unite with others; increase the quality, quantity, size or scope of

v interrupt periodically

“Her sharp questions punctuated the speaker's drone”
Type of:
break up, cut off, disrupt, interrupt
make a break in

v stress; single out as important

accent, accentuate, emphasise, emphasize, stress
show 13 types...
hide 13 types...
background, downplay, play down
understate the importance or quality of
bring out, set off
direct attention to, as if by means of contrast
re-emphasise, re-emphasize
emphasize anew
bear down
pay special attention to
emphasize by putting heavy stress on or by moving to the front of the sentence
point up
emphasize, especially by identification
drive home, press home, ram home
make clear by special emphasis and try to convince somebody of something
emphasise, emphasize, underline, underscore
give extra weight to (a communication)
pick up
lift out or reflect from a background
wave off
dismiss as insignificant
foreground, highlight, play up, spotlight
move into the foreground to make more visible or prominent
bring (a surface or a design) into relief and cause to project
play down or obscure
Type of:
evince, express, show
give expression to

Sign up, it's free!

Whether you're a student, an educator, or a lifelong learner, Vocabulary.com can put you on the path to systematic vocabulary improvement.