Pulsate, pulse, beat, throb, palpitate can mean to manifest a rhythmical movement such as or similar to the one which occurs in the circulatory system when blood is forced along by alternate contractions and relaxations of the ventricles of the heart.
The same distinctions in implications and connotations are to be found in the nouns pulsation, pulse, beat, throb, palpitation when they are used of this rhythmical movement or of one distinct step in it. Pulsate and pulsation carry few specific or distinguishing connotations, but they usually imply regularity, continuity, and vigor in the rhythm whether it is apparent in movements or in sounds.
Pulse, the verb, carries a strong implication of impelled movement; in distinction from pulsate it may also connote a lively succession of spurts, waves, or gushes; thus, the arteries pulsate as the blood pulses through them. The term is more common in general and literary than in technical use. It sometimes takes as its subject what flows or moves in this fashion (as the blood) and at other times what evidences the rhythmical movement (as the heart or blood vessels).
Pulse, the noun, is chiefly a technical term; even its extended use is affected by or dependent on the term’s meaning in physiology. In this sense, pulse usually denotes the number of pulsations of the arteries in a minute as observed commonly by feeling the radial artery of the wrist.
In extended use pulse, when it does not take the place of pulsation is usually a metaphoric extension of the technical use.
Beat, both verb and noun, is the ordinary nontechnical word often used in place of pulsate and pulsation and sometimes in place of pulse. It stresses rhythmical recurrence of sounds more often than rhythmical and continuous alternation in movement.
It is the more usual designation for something (as the tick of a clock, a stroke on a drum, and the accented syllable in verse or note in music) that strikes the ear at regular intervals.
Both the noun and verb throb imply vigorous and often violent or painful pulsation. Either is especially appropriate when there is the intent to imply excitement, strain, or emotional stress.
Palpitate and palpitation imply rapid, often abnormally rapid and fluttering, pulsation. In medical use the terms commonly imply overexertion, violent emotion, or a diseased condition; in extended use, however, the words more often imply a rapid vibration, quivering, or shaking, without any connotation of something amiss.