Definition of alter in English:



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

    with object ‘Eliot was persuaded to alter the passage’
    no object ‘our outward appearance alters as we get older’
    • ‘The family has been undergoing major structural changes that are altering women's roles.’
    • ‘The direction of a reaction can usually be controlled by altering the conditions of the reaction.’
    • ‘Any amount of habitat that is destroyed or altered would have a significant impact.’
    • ‘Like McEwan's Amsterdam, Atonement and Enduring Love, Saturday turns on a single event that forever alters its characters' lives.’
    • ‘Chronic exposure of skin to sunlight substantially alters the biochemical composition and architecture of the dermis.’
    • ‘During the course of the show, he altered the character of two sculptures by revising the installation.’
    • ‘Language change may be a general feature of wartime, yet the way in which words are altered differs from war to war.’
    • ‘The English ruling class was wiped out and the character of the nation altered forever.’
    • ‘There was no man in sight and as she busied herself around the house, Rod altered his plans.’
    • ‘One would presume that any significant change would alter the power balance within the party.’
    • ‘The emulsifying chemical then alters the chemical composition of the fat so that it is turned into soap.’
    • ‘Even now, genetic screening has the potential to alter the genetic composition of the population.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The change in plans, however, altered the application to funding bodies like the Lottery Heritage Fund and the bid to secure the cash failed.’
    • ‘Digitally alter all the alien characters so they have 2 heads because that would look so cool.’
    • ‘Nonetheless, a Confucian moral point is made in this tale in that exemplary behaviour is shown to alter a person's character.’
    • ‘Grid prices and feed costs alter target composition and marketing date of feedlot cattle.’
    • ‘Residents' concerns over excessive traffic in Burdon Lane could soon be addressed if councillors back new plans to alter traffic signals.’
    • ‘In many cases, human actions may merely alter the character of habitats rather than eliminate them.’
    • ‘Where vegetation composition is altered and floral richness threatened, the results will ultimately be felt by us all.’
    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
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    1. 1.1with object Make structural changes to (a building)
      ‘plans to alter the dining hall’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘His mother protests that she does not want to alter this house.’
      • ‘Mrs. Winchester believed ill would befall her if she ever stopped altering her sprawling mansion.’
      • ‘He started to alter his own home, transforming a rustic wood cabin into a sculptural environment.’
      • ‘The north range of buildings was altered to bring it up to modern farming standards and it continued in farm use until the 1990s.’
      • ‘The structure of the home meant they could not alter the building to meet this regulation without becoming financially unviable.’
      • ‘It means the building cannot be demolished or altered in any significant way.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We applied, as the landowner on behalf of Southern, for the proper permissions to alter the existing depot building.’
      • ‘As well as the internal works, the external elevation of the building will be altered and new signage will be erected.’
      • ‘Has the house been altered or extended without considering the planning procedures?’
      • ‘But the Government department has decided the building has been altered too much to merit a listing.’
      • ‘Fortunately not one of the occupying institutions had attempted to alter the villa.’
      • ‘Plans to alter a pub in the oldest area of Skipton have failed to find favour with local councillors.’
    2. 1.2North 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
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Late Middle English: from Old French alterer, from late Latin alterare, from Latin alter ‘other’.