Modality Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It?

Wondering the meaning of modality? If so, keep reading — this article covers the complete definition of the word modality and more.

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There are a number of words in the English language that have more than one meaning. The term “modality” is one of those words. 

In this guide, we’re exploring the term modality to uncover its many definitions, origins, synonyms, and antonyms. We’ll also go over a few usage examples to show you how to use modality in a sentence.

What Is the Definition of Modality

As mentioned above, the term modality has multiple meanings — in other words, it’s a homonym. The many definitions of modality can be found below:  

  • In grammar and semantics, the term modality refers to linguistic devices that are indicative of the degree to which an observation is probable, likely, possible, certain, prohibited, or permitted. More often than not, these notions are expressed by modal auxiliaries, such as might, should, can, and will. They are sometimes combined with the word not.  
  • When used in medicine, the Collins Dictionary defines modality as a therapeutic method or agent (such as chemotherapy, surgery, or electrotherapy) that involves the physical treatment of a disorder.  
  • The Oxford Dictionary defines modality as the particular way in which something exists, is experienced, or is done. A sensory modality is a way of sensing, like hearing or vision. A modality in an individual’s voice provides a sense of their mood.   
  • In semiotics, the word modality refers to the particular way or channel by which sighs are transmitted (such as a gesture, in writing, or in speech). 

After reviewing the definitions listed above, it’s easy to see how the term modality can be a bit confusing. Not only does it refer to the quality or state of being modal, but it can also refer to a type of treatment for a disease or medical condition. 

In addition, modality can be expressed by modal verbs, such as “can,” “might,” and “should,” or by expressions such as “I’m supposed to” and “it’s likely that.” 

The Origin of Modality 

According to the Douglas Harper’s Etymology Dictionary, modality comes from 1610s’ Old French modalité or directly from Medieval Latin modalitatem (nominative modalitas), meaning “a being modal.” This word comes from the Latin modalis.

Synonyms and Antonyms of Modality

To further your understanding of a word, it can be helpful to review its synonyms and antonyms. 

Synonyms are words that have the same or nearly the same meaning as another word, whereas antonyms are words that have the opposite meaning of another word. 

Learning synonyms and antonyms from a thesaurus can help to refine your writing and sharpen your sense of language. 

Synonyms of modality include:

  • Fashion
  • Manner
  • Mode
  • Style
  • Way
  • Mood
  • System
  • Method
  • Indicative mood
  • Sensory system
  • Subjunctive
  • Sense modality
  • Paradigm
  • Multimodality

Antonyms of modality include:

  • Transitivity
  • Ill humor
  • Unnatural 
  • Abnormal

Examples of Modality in a Sentence

Now that you understand what the term modality means, it’s time to practice using our word of the day in a sentence. Quiz yourself to see how many complete sentences you can come up with using modality, or feel free to check out our example sentences below:

He said they operate on several sensory modalities, so it would be a rewarding species to study.

If you ask me, the harmony had a perfect touch of modality.

Did you know that modality, often called modal auxiliary verbs, modal auxiliaries modal verbs, are special verbs that provide extra info about the function of the main verb?

Cindy gets all of her assignments done by working in a productive modality that allows her to multitask.

The modality of the dancer’s movement centers on his skill and expertise.

John has had quite a bit of success with his teaching modality. Other people often ask him for pointers.

My teacher told us that modality is also a concept in Anthony Giddens’s structuration theory.

How do you pick which patient for which therapeutic modality?

I told you, testing was only in the visual modality.

She’s been using meditation, yoga, and prayer as modalities to cope.

He said his most effective treatment modality is osteopathic manual medicine.

Sorry, logic doesn’t seem to be among the modalities.

My doctor said sound healing was a wonderful modality!

Do we really need to repeat the modalities that we’ve inherited?

He never faltered the reader on the head with dull modalities when dealing with the war.

Bob’s doctor used an interesting modality when giving his diagnosis.


A modality is a mode or way something exists or is done. Often seen regarding diagnostic modality, which is how an illness or condition is diagnosed by a health care provider, modality shares its root with the term mode, meaning how something is experienced or happens.

In other words, it’s how people talk about their obligations, attitudes, and intentions. It’s the type of behavior, expression, or way of life that belongs to a particular person or group. 

But that’s not all; the term modality is also used in logic when it has to do with whether a proposition is necessary, possible, or impossible. 

Simply put, a modality is a particular way in which something exists or is done.   


  1. MODALITY (noun) definition and synonyms | Macmillan Dictionary
  2. Modality definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary
  3. modality noun – Definition, pictures, pronunciation and usage notes | Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary