Definition of alternate in English:


(also alt.)

Pronunciation /ˈôltərˌnāt/ /ˈɔltərˌneɪt/

See synonyms for alternate

Translate alternate into Spanish

intransitive verb

[no object]
  • 1Occur in turn repeatedly.

    ‘bouts of depression alternate with periods of elation’
    • ‘the governorship alternated between the Republican and Democratic parties’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Elated episodes can alternate with periods of severe depression with three months or years between.’
    • ‘This quality of pain may alternate with other qualities, depending upon what other factors are involved in a particular patient's case.’
    • ‘Strips of printed fabrics may alternate with plain-fabric strips, or unpieced strips may alternate with pieced strips.’
    • ‘Turns alternate with each player moving one of his pieces.’
    • ‘On the soundtrack, bouncy pop tunes alternate with electronic dirges.’
    • ‘These behaviors become a pattern of eating and can alternate with dieting.’
    • ‘Mournful, quietly ecstatic ballads alternate with more riff based, rhythmically insistent workouts.’
    • ‘We could hardly bear to look out the window; but now shrubs, and the eucalyptus trees which alternate with the casuarinas, have hidden the damage.’
    • ‘Beautiful sandy beaches alternate with rocky headlands, and magnificent coastal villages shine like beacons on the shore…’
    • ‘Gorgeous waves and curls alternate with straight strands as the hottest trends for Fall styles.’
    • ‘Colors are also emphasized by the alternating stripes and the contrasting trim.’
    • ‘Perennial plants that inhabit regions with seasonal environments must adapt their life cycle to the changing conditions posed by the alternating favourable and constraining seasons.’
    • ‘Crowned with a tile roof, the alternating narrow and wide bands of rock face masonry contrast with the smooth finish of the arch and its Rococo embellishment.’
    • ‘Weather conditions other than alternating early mists and warm afternoons can result in a satisfactory noble rot infection.’
    • ‘It functions during the alternating contractions of muscles on either side of the body that enable the worm to wiggle backward with a smooth wavelike motion.’
    • ‘The high- and low-discriminability conditions were tested in alternating blocks.’
    • ‘The paradigm for the recognition test was designed using alternating blocks of trials.’
    be interspersed, follow one another, be staggered, take turns, take it in turns, act in sequence, work in sequence, occur in turn, occur in rotation
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    1. 1.1with object Do or perform in turn repeatedly.
      ‘some adults who wish to alternate work with education’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Contrast was provided by alternating choral chant with passages sung by soloists.’
      • ‘On the campaign bus, Simon spent hours in conversation with reporters, alternating with ease between the personal and the political.’
      • ‘Even substituting wall push-ups or alternating hand positions may not reduce the stress enough for some conditions.’
      • ‘These horns are often found in their lowest manifestation, with Havard Lund playing bass clarinet and Nils Jansen alternating between contrabass clarinet and bass saxophone.’
      • ‘A veteran of one-man shows, he has always alternated between being a painter and a sculptor and a poet.’
      • ‘Speakers and athletes alternated between Putonghua and Cantonese as they addressed the crowd.’
      • ‘Actually, they alternated between investigation and writing.’
      • ‘Carter alternated between roles as pill-flushing avenger and evangelically passionate lover.’
      • ‘The rest alternated between pinching each other, aesthetically arranging their bags and throwing science pamphlets at the snug snoozers.’
      • ‘I made my way back to the waiting room and alternated between walking around to keep my circulation going and wrapping and re-wrapping the jumper bits around me.’
      • ‘Apparently when my parents drove into Geelong with my sister, she got bored and alternated between focusing her eyes on very close objects and focusing her eyes on very far objects.’
      • ‘He alternated between standing still and pacing nervously for about 20 minutes, until an employee of the bar said he would show the Red Sox game in the back room.’
      • ‘Buried under a layer of quilts he alternated between moodily staring at the paper, morosely changing channels, or just being a great big ill-tempered miserable lump.’
      • ‘As Tito and Lindsay alternated between drums and percussion, Tala sent the audience into a fit of giggles by serenading a ‘very lovely lady’ who sat in the front row.’
      • ‘And we alternated between singing those two lyrics, breaking into fits of laughter at some points, until my mother came home and had a cow at the way we treated her turntable/needle.’
      • ‘We alternated between hollering at him and repeating everything five times.’
      • ‘She breathed heavily and Ian alternated between blowing on her hot forehead and brushing heavy hair out of her face.’
      give turns to, take in turn, rotate, take in rotation
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  • 1Every other; every second.

    ‘she was asked to attend on alternate days’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘From Tuesday, starting in Sedgley Park, Bury Council has launched its new phase of doorstep recycling which involves collecting residual waste which is not recyclable on an alternate weekly rota.’
    • ‘It will see standard grey household waste bins being emptied fortnightly instead of weekly, while new green wheeled bins for garden waste are collected on alternate weeks from 60,000 homes in the city.’
    • ‘At the start of every year Newtown travel to Ballybunion and Lough Gur in Limerick on alternate Sunday mornings, running the dunes in Ballybunion and the steep hills that overlook the old crannogs in Lough Gur.’
    • ‘Solumediol 500 mg was given on alternate days.’
    • ‘If you are getting tired of KD and plain rice on alternate nights, look into Masala's vegetarian and non-vegetarian Indian cooking courses.’
    • ‘Under level three restrictions, outdoor water use is limited to hand-held hoses for one hour between 5.30 pm and 6.30 pm on alternate days.’
    • ‘The change to Level 3 restrictions came into effect from Saturday, and means people can now use a hand-held hose for 60 minutes in the evening on alternate days.’
    • ‘The proposals could see the standard rubbish collection being replaced by a ‘greener’ system, with household rubbish and recyclables picked up on alternate weeks.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, downstairs, Kendal collective FUNKTION will take over each Friday night with Tom Townley sharing alternate Fridays with Gaz Dawson and Luke Channon.’
    • ‘She insists that she will only have a conversation with me if we do alternate lines of a sonnet.’
    • ‘‘Now it is a case of collecting the two different types of bins on alternate weeks,’ he said.’
    • ‘The church is entered via a Norman south porch with a door of eight continuous orders, alternate bands of which are carved with biblical scenes.’
    • ‘Olivia agreed to continue therapy on an alternate week schedule.’
    • ‘The child resides with each of the parents for alternate periods of one week, to continue in sequence.’
    • ‘At the same time, you may be better off emphasizing one over the other during alternate training cycles.’
    • ‘My concern, and that of my neighbours, is the alternate weeks collection cycle.’
    • ‘What they desire is an India-England series on a home and away four-year cycle (series in alternate years) like the current Ashes series so a brand can effectively be developed.’
    every other, every second
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    1. 1.1(of two things) each following and succeeded by the other in a regular pattern.
      ‘alternate bouts of intense labor and of idleness’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Caudel ferry, coloured with saffron, might be solid enough to slice, and was sometimes served in a dish in alternate quarters with blancmange to make a yellow and white pattern.’
      • ‘People imbued with intensely tribal values often alternate between manic activism and depressed fatalism.’
      • ‘The examiner reads a series of alternate letters and numbers.’
      • ‘The ground was covered with square granite slabs of alternate black and light grey resembling a large carpet and there were granite chairs fixed at strategic points, and a round granite table in the middle.’
      • ‘Lines are another design trend - and they don't have to be horizontal or vertical as Jonathan Aston's Chevy proves: it features V-shaped chevrons in alternate black and red.’
      • ‘Residents in Pickering are so fed up with alternate standard and ‘green’ waste collections every fortnight that hundreds have signed a petition calling for a return to the old system.’
      • ‘Continue this exercise with alternate resting of each eye and you will find that you can keep your eyes open for longer periods without losing the improved vision.’
      alternating, in rotation, rotating, occurring in turns, interchanging, following in sequence, sequential
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    2. 1.2Botany (of leaves or shoots) placed alternately on the two sides of the stem.
      ‘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.’
      • ‘Leaves are alternate, ovate or ovate-elliptical with a short pedicel and three or four lateral veins.’
      • ‘The southern magnolia has alternate leaves, 4 to 5 inches wide and 5 to 10 inches long.’
  • 2North American Taking the place of; alternative.

    ‘the rerouted traffic takes a variety of alternate routes’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The show has spawned numerous regional imitators, if not an entire alternate entertainment universe.’
    • ‘Angel turned on her radio and switched to an alternate frequency reserved for emergencies, hoping she'd be able to contact Quinton.’
    • ‘Just so everyone knows, this story is set nearly four decades from now, in a alternate universe that will never come to pass.’
    • ‘Throughout the volumes that comprised the second season, I've complained about the alternate Earth episodes.’
    • ‘It is not long after this molting is complete that they start a second molt to acquire their alternate plumage.’
    • ‘I'll agree with criticisms that the plot is often secondary to the special effects, but the opportunity for alternate readings is one that I've enjoyed more than any other film.’
    • ‘The need then for an alternate development model that was pro-poor, pro-women and anti-caste was urgent as caste and feudal values inhibited the process of development.’
    • ‘Eventually, the Soviet Bloc rock scene grew into an alternate world, complete with a string of safe houses that one could use to inhabit the counterculture no matter where one went.’
    • ‘Through the construction of the hostel by using alternate technology, the Kerala-based Habitat Technology group has also propagated the message of energy efficiency.’
    • ‘And in any event he doesn't know where the ‘somewhere else’ is that he might buy it, as the high street isn't precisely full of alternate retail channels.’
    • ‘While I agree with a few of his points, and dislike the ranters' attitudes that such companies are simply evil, I feel like standing up a little for the ranters, or at least providing an alternate slant on their rants.’
    • ‘Instead, we have created an alternate committee to promote how the province could engage in treaty negotiations.’
    • ‘This morning, it's 8 degrees outside and I am finding novel and alternate ways of heating the house i.e. showering with the door open or warming our hands over the toaster.’
    • ‘We have already established alternate plans for the following blogs.’
    • ‘Each chapter provides an alternate sequence of events associated with a key encounter during the Napoleonic Wars.’
    • ‘The sequence in the alternate dimension had a profound resonance with me, like I'd experienced similar places in dreams but couldn't quite remember the specifics.’
    • ‘In the Deleted Animation section, you get to see deleted scenes, or alternate versions of sequences that were included in the movies.’
    • ‘Check weather conditions as soon as entering the local traffic pattern and get updates on a regular basis for your primary and alternate landing base if the weather begins to deteriorate.’
    • ‘The Internet, for better or worse, has intensified the promulgation of conspiracy theories, alternate realities, and instant rumors.’
    alternative, other, another, second, different, possible, substitute, replacement, deputy, relief, proxy, surrogate, cover, fill-in, stand-in, standby, emergency, reserve, backup, auxiliary, fallback
    View synonyms


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’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘To punish someone for breaking a law that's in the United Methodist Church's Book of Discipline, a case must be argued before a ‘trial court’ of 13 jurors and two alternates.’
    • ‘They were reduced to 12 jurors and 12 alternates.’
    • ‘The process of choosing eight alternates is under way.’
    • ‘Court officials hope to have 12 jurors and two alternates in place by Friday.’
    • ‘Each team has four players in the game at a time, with some teams using a fifth as an alternate.’
    • ‘Each group selected its own delegates and alternates.’
    • ‘We'll select one of the alternates to take Ed's place in tomorrow's reenactment.’
    • ‘Four years ago it was the Magnificent Seven, but this year it's the Six Pack (plus a couple of alternates, who are not members of the team in the Olympic committee's eyes).’
    • ‘The 16 invited big wave chargers, and five alternates, will be surfing all the other big wave spots on the Peninsula while they're waiting for Dungeons to fire.’
    • ‘The U.S. squad is made up of 6 riders with 9 alternates.’
    • ‘Also qualifying for the 400 free relay were Ashley Tappin and Amy Van Dyken, along with alternates Courtney Shealy and Erin Phenix.’
    • ‘I focus on eight players because six running backs and two alternates are elected to the Pro Bowl each year so that seems to be a fair marker for a standard of excellence.’
    • ‘Merged state associations may elect two delegates and two alternates to the USBC annual meeting.’
    • ‘The AAFP is entitled to an equal number of alternates but may choose not to send its full number of alternates to AMA meetings.’
    • ‘As you can see, there's a very limited number of us - there are no alternates, even, although I wish we could find some.’
    • ‘The committee, which has nine alternates, makes nominations for 14 awards in two categories.’
    • ‘So if you were in the jury room, had you been a regular juror, rather than an alternate, you would have voted not guilty on all three counts?’



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