Definition of alternate in English:



[no object]
Pronunciation /ˈɒltəneɪt//ˈɔːltəneɪt/
  • 1Occur in turn repeatedly.

    ‘bouts of depression alternate with periods of elation’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In some ways it's a mess of a film, in which the dramatic face-offs alternate with TV sitcom brawling.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Weather conditions other than alternating early mists and warm afternoons can result in a satisfactory noble rot infection.’
    • ‘Gorgeous waves and curls alternate with straight strands as the hottest trends for Fall styles.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Beautiful sandy beaches alternate with rocky headlands, and magnificent coastal villages shine like beacons on the shore…’
    • ‘Elated episodes can alternate with periods of severe depression with three months or years between.’
    • ‘These behaviors become a pattern of eating and can alternate with dieting.’
    • ‘On the soundtrack, bouncy pop tunes alternate with electronic dirges.’
    • ‘Colors are also emphasized by the alternating stripes and the contrasting trim.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the wards indigenous hammocks alternate with traditional hospital beds.’
    • ‘Turns alternate with each player moving one of his pieces.’
    • ‘Mournful, quietly ecstatic ballads alternate with more riff based, rhythmically insistent workouts.’
    • ‘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’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Carter alternated between roles as pill-flushing avenger and evangelically passionate lover.’
      • ‘We alternated between hollering at him and repeating everything five times.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘She breathed heavily and Ian alternated between blowing on her hot forehead and brushing heavy hair out of her face.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Contrast was provided by alternating choral chant with passages sung by soloists.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Even substituting wall push-ups or alternating hand positions may not reduce the stress enough for some conditions.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘On the campaign bus, Simon spent hours in conversation with reporters, alternating with ease between the personal and the political.’
      • ‘Actually, they alternated between investigation and writing.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Once both players have made their selections they alternate turns revealing their top card and performing the corresponding action.’
      • ‘The rest alternated between pinching each other, aesthetically arranging their bags and throwing science pamphlets at the snug snoozers.’
      give turns to, take in turn, rotate, take in rotation
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    2. 1.2 Change repeatedly between two contrasting conditions.
      ‘the government alternated between the Labour and Conservative parties’
      • ‘Roald notes that rehearsals have alternated between hilarity and tears.’
      • ‘In a chessboxing fight two opponents play alternating rounds of chess and boxing.’
      • ‘I tried to call Stevie Clark repeatedly but his phone alternated between off and unobtainable.’
      • ‘Already, the city's burgeoning computer software sector has established links with one of the world's top information technology trade shows, Softworld, which alternates each year between the east and west coasts of Canada.’
      • ‘The uneven topography alternated between blocks of ice mesas, deep ice craters, bony ice ridges, and rolling ice dunes glowing an otherworldly sapphire-blue.’
      • ‘In the build up to the birth you go through alternating phases of excitement and fear.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Individuals were assayed in an alternating fashion to correct for any fluctuations in environmental conditions over the course of the day.’
      • ‘Saturday mornings alternated between dress parade and inter-squadron track meets.’
      • ‘The rest of the library-in-the-round alternated between displays, TV videos, and various quotes/info on the walls.’
      • ‘The scenes alternated between soldiers on a ship in the invasion and the home of an American soldier.’
      • ‘A good improv record will have contrasting periods of restraint and release, alternating between logic and wit.’
      • ‘Its provocative themes were smothered by a talky libretto that alternated between earnest exposition and sitcom jokes, set in smoothly tonal, insipid musical language.’
      • ‘The zebra's coat alternates in contrasting areas of light and dark pigmentation.’
      • ‘Since then, his life alternated between music and spirituality to finally merge into a powerful combination.’
      • ‘She usually alternated between the pool and the sauna.’
      • ‘In England, they never had a depression as severe as ours, but it lasted a whole lot longer; between the two world wars, Great Britain alternated between stagnation and decline.’
      • ‘The programme alternated between live songs - with varying arrangements of musicians and singers - and vocals with a backing track, all produced by the academy.’
      • ‘Since 1902 the game has been played between Somerset Cricket Club and St. George's Cricket Club, with the venue for the two-day match alternating each year.’
      • ‘His hand movements alternated between fluttery flocks of birds and rigid Godzilla claws.’


Pronunciation /ɔːlˈtəːnət//ɒlˈtəːnət/
  • 1attributive Every other; every second.

    ‘she was asked to attend on alternate days’
    • ‘‘Now it is a case of collecting the two different types of bins on alternate weeks,’ he said.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘She insists that she will only have a conversation with me if we do alternate lines of a sonnet.’
    • ‘Every second window has been screwed closed, with alternate windows to be opened periodically to aerate the interior.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Meanwhile, downstairs, Kendal collective FUNKTION will take over each Friday night with Tom Townley sharing alternate Fridays with Gaz Dawson and Luke Channon.’
    • ‘My concern, and that of my neighbours, is the alternate weeks collection cycle.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Olivia agreed to continue therapy on an alternate week schedule.’
    • ‘My second and third exercises are dumbbell preacher curls and seated alternate dumbbell curls, and again I supinate or pronate appropriately.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The child resides with each of the parents for alternate periods of one week, to continue in sequence.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘At the same time, you may be better off emphasizing one over the other during alternate training cycles.’
    • ‘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.’
    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 labour and of idleness’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The examiner reads a series of alternate letters and numbers.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The former Turk deftly slid in front of me, eyes shadowed, face thrown into alternate patterns of light and dark.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The alternate North and South checkerboard pattern widen the blood vessels to increase blood circulation to the affected area and increase lymphatic flow.’
      • ‘People imbued with intensely tribal values often alternate between manic activism and depressed fatalism.’
      • ‘The behaviors of binging and then purging are often performed in secrecy, and are accompanied by alternate feelings of shame followed by relief.’
      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.
      • ‘The upright stems have many, alternate, pinnately compound leaves with sharply toothed or lacerate leaflets.’
      • ‘Ulmus pumila is a woody species with monopodial branching and alternate leaves.’
      • ‘Leaves are alternate, ovate or ovate-elliptical with a short pedicel and three or four lateral veins.’
      • ‘Although the shapes of mums vary depending on their species, they usually have stems sporting multi-branches with alternate leaves.’
      • ‘The southern magnolia has alternate leaves, 4 to 5 inches wide and 5 to 10 inches long.’
  • 2North American

    ‘a novel set in an alternate universe’
    another term for alternative
    • ‘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 Internet, for better or worse, has intensified the promulgation of conspiracy theories, alternate realities, and instant rumors.’
    • ‘The show has spawned numerous regional imitators, if not an entire alternate entertainment universe.’
    • ‘Through the construction of the hostel by using alternate technology, the Kerala-based Habitat Technology group has also propagated the message of energy efficiency.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘We plotted our methods of evasion like we were planning a covert military operation, carefully mapping out alternate routes of entry and exit.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Throughout the volumes that comprised the second season, I've complained about the alternate Earth episodes.’
    • ‘We have already established alternate plans for the following blogs.’
    • ‘Just so everyone knows, this story is set nearly four decades from now, in a alternate universe that will never come to pass.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It is not long after this molting is complete that they start a second molt to acquire their alternate plumage.’
    • ‘Now obviously things might go quite differently in our universe than I conjecture, and they might have gone quite differently in the alternate universe.’
    • ‘Each chapter provides an alternate sequence of events associated with a key encounter during the Napoleonic Wars.’
    • ‘Angel turned on her radio and switched to an alternate frequency reserved for emergencies, hoping she'd be able to contact Quinton.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the Deleted Animation section, you get to see deleted scenes, or alternate versions of sequences that were included in the movies.’
    • ‘Instead, we have created an alternate committee to promote how the province could engage in treaty negotiations.’
    • ‘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.’
    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


Pronunciation /ɒlˈtəːnət//ɔːlˈtəːnət/
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’
    • ‘As you can see, there's a very limited number of us - there are no alternates, even, although I wish we could find some.’
    • ‘In the drawing for the eighth position, three alternates will be selected to substitute for any qualified driver who may be unable to compete.’
    • ‘The process of choosing eight alternates is under way.’
    • ‘We'll select one of the alternates to take Ed's place in tomorrow's reenactment.’
    • ‘Originally the first alternate for the vault final, Tsiopoulous was substituted for Russia's Anton Golutsutskov and won the gold with two dynamic vaults.’
    • ‘They were reduced to 12 jurors and 12 alternates.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Merged state associations may elect two delegates and two alternates to the USBC annual meeting.’
    • ‘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?’
    • ‘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 committee, which has nine alternates, makes nominations for 14 awards in two categories.’
    • ‘Each group selected its own delegates and 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.’
    • ‘The U.S. squad is made up of 6 riders with 9 alternates.’
    • ‘The AAFP is entitled to an equal number of alternates but may choose not to send its full number of alternates to AMA meetings.’
    • ‘Court officials hope to have 12 jurors and two alternates in place by Friday.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Each team has four players in the game at a time, with some teams using a fifth as an alternate.’
    • ‘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).’


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’.