Definition of alternate in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈɔːltəneɪt/
Pronunciation: /ˈɒltəneɪt/
[no object]
1Occur in turn repeatedly: bouts of depression alternate with periods of elation (as adjective alternating) a season of alternating hot days and cool nights
More example sentences
  • In the wards indigenous hammocks alternate with traditional hospital beds.
  • In some ways it's a mess of a film, in which the dramatic face-offs alternate with TV sitcom brawling.
  • What's more, they discovered, El Nino has a sister phenomenon, La Nina, a period of unusually cold waters that seemed to alternate with El Nino.
be interspersed, follow one another, be staggered, take turns, take it in turns, work/act in sequence, occur in turn, occur in rotation;
rotate, oscillate, see-saw, yo-yo, chop and change, fluctuate
1.1 [with object] Do or perform in turn repeatedly: some adults who wish to alternate work with education
More example sentences
  • Once both players have made their selections they alternate turns revealing their top card and performing the corresponding action.
  • My prescription was tapered off so that I was alternating days of full dosage, half dosage.
  • Condition by alternating between running and mountain biking at least 3 miles a week.
give turns to, take in turn, rotate, take in rotation;
intersperse, stagger, swap, exchange, interchange, switch, vary
1.2Change repeatedly between two contrasting conditions: the government alternated between the Labour and Conservative parties
More example sentences
  • Individuals were assayed in an alternating fashion to correct for any fluctuations in environmental conditions over the course of the day.
  • Back then it was just Ben and Dale forever in their twenties, driving always down country roads in old trucks, alternating between rage and wild openness.
  • The zebra's coat alternates in contrasting areas of light and dark pigmentation.


Pronunciation: /ɔːlˈtəːnət/
Pronunciation: /ɒlˈtəːnət/
1Every other; every second: she was asked to attend on alternate days
More example sentences
  • Every second window has been screwed closed, with alternate windows to be opened periodically to aerate the interior.
  • My second and third exercises are dumbbell preacher curls and seated alternate dumbbell curls, and again I supinate or pronate appropriately.
  • My father took me to the Marina every alternate day and buried me hip deep in the sand.
every other, every second
1.1(Of two things) each following and succeeded by the other in a regular pattern: alternate bouts of intense labour and of idleness
More example sentences
  • The former Turk deftly slid in front of me, eyes shadowed, face thrown into alternate patterns of light and dark.
  • The behaviors of binging and then purging are often performed in secrecy, and are accompanied by alternate feelings of shame followed by relief.
  • The alternate North and South checkerboard pattern widen the blood vessels to increase blood circulation to the affected area and increase lymphatic flow.
alternating, in rotation, rotating, occurring in turns, interchanging, following in sequence, sequential
1.2 Botany (Of leaves or shoots) placed alternately on the two sides of the stem.
Example sentences
  • Ulmus pumila is a woody species with monopodial branching and alternate leaves.
  • The upright stems have many, alternate, pinnately compound leaves with sharply toothed or lacerate leaflets.
  • Although the shapes of mums vary depending on their species, they usually have stems sporting multi-branches with alternate leaves.
2chiefly North American another term for alternative. a novel set in an alternate universe
More example sentences
  • Now obviously things might go quite differently in our universe than I conjecture, and they might have gone quite differently in the alternate universe.
  • In this case, we were sitting there for over fifteen minutes until one-by-one, cars began swinging into U-turns to backtrack to an alternate route.
  • We plotted our methods of evasion like we were planning a covert military operation, carefully mapping out alternate routes of entry and exit.
alternative, other, another, second, different, possible, substitute, replacement, deputy, relief, proxy, surrogate, cover, fill-in, stand-in, standby, emergency, reserve, backup, auxiliary, fallback
North American informal pinch-hitting


Pronunciation: /ɔːlˈtəːnət/
Pronunciation: /ɒlˈtəːnət/
North American
A person who acts as a deputy or substitute: he shall be entitled to exercise the vote of the director for whom he is an alternate
More example sentences
  • Not only that, but if your ex-wife is named as your executor or trustee, she will be ineligible to serve, and the person named as the alternate will serve.
  • In the drawing for the eighth position, three alternates will be selected to substitute for any qualified driver who may be unable to compete.
  • Originally the first alternate for the vault final, Tsiopoulous was substituted for Russia's Anton Golutsutskov and won the gold with two dynamic vaults.


In both British and American English the adjective alternate means ‘every other or every second’, as in they meet on alternate Sundays, or ‘(of two things) each following and succeeded by the other in a regular pattern’, as in alternate layers of potato and sauce. Alternative means ‘available as another possibility or choice’ ( an alternative route; some European countries follow an alternative approach). In American usage, however, alternate can also be used to mean ‘available as another choice’: an alternate plan called for construction to begin immediately rather than waiting for spring. This American use of alternate is still regarded as incorrect by many people in Britain.


Early 16th century (earlier (late Middle English) as alternation): from Latin alternat- 'done by turns', from alternare, from alternus 'every other', from alter 'other'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: al¦ter|nate

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