Definition of alter in English:


Pronunciation /ˈôltər/ /ˈɔltər/

See synonyms for alter

Translate alter into Spanish


  • 1Change or cause to change in character or composition, typically in a comparatively small but significant way.

    with object ‘Eliot was persuaded to alter the passage’
    • ‘our outward appearance alters as we get older’
    • ‘nothing alters the fact that children are our responsibility’
    • ‘The English ruling class was wiped out and the character of the nation altered forever.’
    • ‘Digitally alter all the alien characters so they have 2 heads because that would look so cool.’
    • ‘During the course of the show, he altered the character of two sculptures by revising the installation.’
    • ‘Like McEwan's Amsterdam, Atonement and Enduring Love, Saturday turns on a single event that forever alters its characters' lives.’
    • ‘The emulsifying chemical then alters the chemical composition of the fat so that it is turned into soap.’
    • ‘Any amount of habitat that is destroyed or altered would have a significant impact.’
    • ‘Chronic exposure of skin to sunlight substantially alters the biochemical composition and architecture of the dermis.’
    • ‘Where vegetation composition is altered and floral richness threatened, the results will ultimately be felt by us all.’
    • ‘One hypothesis is that they actually alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere, thus playing a role in ozone depletion and the climate on Earth.’
    • ‘Even now, genetic screening has the potential to alter the genetic composition of the population.’
    • ‘In many cases, human actions may merely alter the character of habitats rather than eliminate them.’
    • ‘Grid prices and feed costs alter target composition and marketing date of feedlot cattle.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, a Confucian moral point is made in this tale in that exemplary behaviour is shown to alter a person's character.’
    • ‘One would presume that any significant change would alter the power balance within the party.’
    • ‘The change in plans, however, altered the application to funding bodies like the Lottery Heritage Fund and the bid to secure the cash failed.’
    • ‘There was no man in sight and as she busied herself around the house, Rod altered his plans.’
    • ‘Residents' concerns over excessive traffic in Burdon Lane could soon be addressed if councillors back new plans to alter traffic signals.’
    • ‘The direction of a reaction can usually be controlled by altering the conditions of the reaction.’
    • ‘The family has been undergoing major structural changes that are altering women's roles.’
    • ‘Language change may be a general feature of wartime, yet the way in which words are altered differs from war to war.’
    change, make changes to, make different, make alterations to, adjust, make adjustments to, adapt, amend, improve, modify, convert, revise, recast, reform, reshape, refashion, redesign, restyle, revamp, rework, remake, remodel, remould, redo, reconstruct, reorganize, reorder, refine, reorient, reorientate, vary, transform, transfigure, transmute, evolve
    change, become different, undergo a change, undergo a sea change, turn, adjust, adapt, convert, vary, transform, metamorphose, evolve, improve
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with object Make structural changes to (a building)
      ‘plans to alter the dining hall’
      • ‘We applied, as the landowner on behalf of Southern, for the proper permissions to alter the existing depot building.’
      • ‘The structure of the home meant they could not alter the building to meet this regulation without becoming financially unviable.’
      • ‘Plans to alter a pub in the oldest area of Skipton have failed to find favour with local councillors.’
      • ‘The proposal involves altering a farm building into storage and offices which would be used for the applicant's four separate development companies and kitchen and domestic furniture business.’
      • ‘Restoration not replacement, bringing the derelict back into use, altering old buildings to make them attractive to a new generation - these are the available moves.’
      • ‘The north range of buildings was altered to bring it up to modern farming standards and it continued in farm use until the 1990s.’
      • ‘A City of York Council spokesman said the authority would not have to be informed if the repairs were like for like and would not alter the building.’
      • ‘McDonough believes in not only fundamentally altering buildings, but also changing the way things are made, to make the planet a better place.’
      • ‘However, the downside could come years later if building use changes or if the building is altered.’
      • ‘Listed buildings cannot be structurally altered without the permission of English Heritage.’
      • ‘Mrs Clegg realised there was a nest in her roof after seeing a couple of wasps fly in and out of a small gap above the back bedroom window, a gap she claims the council left after altering the house 10 years ago.’
      • ‘Has the house been altered or extended without considering the planning procedures?’
      • ‘Mrs. Winchester believed ill would befall her if she ever stopped altering her sprawling mansion.’
      • ‘His mother protests that she does not want to alter this house.’
      • ‘Fortunately not one of the occupying institutions had attempted to alter the villa.’
      • ‘I think the Stadium Australia people would say that when the stadium is reconfigured, and they're still in the process of altering the stadium, that they'll be able to have a lot more events.’
      • ‘He started to alter his own home, transforming a rustic wood cabin into a sculptural environment.’
      • ‘But the Government department has decided the building has been altered too much to merit a listing.’
      • ‘As well as the internal works, the external elevation of the building will be altered and new signage will be erected.’
      • ‘It means the building cannot be demolished or altered in any significant way.’
    2. 1.2with object Tailor (clothing) for a better fit or to conform to fashion.
      ‘skirts with the hemlines altered a dozen different times’
      • ‘So I had to alter old clothing and eventually started making pillows out of that so I could sell them.’
      • ‘This clothing was then altered to become liturgical dress.’
      • ‘The alterations are very basic but should be enough to alter a jacket.’
      • ‘This lining method is a nice clean one and has the advantage of letting you alter the vest if it doesn't fit correctly.’
      • ‘Some men came over to alter the dress, measuring and sticking pins all over, pricking my sides.’
      • ‘This far into deployment, there weren't any replacements or a way to alter my suit for a better fit.’
      • ‘He is very excited and also said that if you should decide to buy it, we will alter the dress for free.’
      • ‘Dress slacks are constructed in a way that allows your tailor to alter the waist and seat when needed.’
      • ‘Buy one that fits around the shoulders and have a reputable tailor alter it for you.’
      • ‘Firstly, supply of the new garment involves a more complex fitting process than the old system of tailors altering off-the-hook uniforms to provide a near as possible fit.’
      • ‘Mrs Graham had left in a skirt to be altered by Joan Osborne, the owner of the clothing alteration business.’
      • ‘The seamstress who altered my wedding gown was surprised that I didn't want my dress taken in more.’
      • ‘She stood up and draped the dress she had finished altering across her chair, standing back in order to admire her handiwork.’
      • ‘Claire stepped into her short pleated denim skirt that she had altered herself.’
      • ‘I don't have time to email Latte, its time for the bridesmaid dresses to be altered.’
      • ‘My fiance needs to get a wedding dress she bought altered, but isn't having any luck.’
      • ‘Of course I had to have the dress altered to fit my slimmer body, but the expense was worth it.’
      • ‘You might want to get your shirts altered at waist level to give them a slimmer fit.’
      • ‘For example, alter a jacket's shoulder width before fitting for sleeve length.’
      • ‘The models had created every outfit, either from scratch with material purchased themselves or by adjusting and altering charity shop items.’
    3. 1.3North American, Australian with object Castrate or spay (a domestic animal).
      • ‘The humane society will alter kittens as young as eight weeks of age.’
      castrate, geld, cut, emasculate
      View synonyms


Late Middle English from Old French alterer, from late Latin alterare, from Latin alter ‘other’.