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to interchange repeatedly and regularly with one another in time or place; rotate (usually followed by with):
Day alternates with night.
to change back and forth between conditions, states, actions, etc.:
He alternates between hope and despair.
to take turns:
My sister and I alternated in doing the dishes.
Electricity. to reverse direction or sign periodically.
Linguistics. to occur as a variant in with another form.
to perform or do in succession or one after another:
to alternate comedy acts; to alternate jogging and walking.
to interchange successively or regularly:
to alternate hot and cold compresses.
being in a constant state of succession or rotation; interchanged repeatedly one for another:
Winter and summer are alternate seasons.
reciprocal; mutual:
alternate acts of kindness.
every second one of a series:
Read only the alternate lines.
constituting an alternative:
The alternate route is more scenic.
(defs 4, 6).

placed singly at different heights on the axis, on each side in succession, or at definite angular distances from one another, as leaves.
opposite to the intervals between other organs:
petals alternate with sepals.

a person authorized to fill the position, exercise the duties, etc., of another who is temporarily absent; substitute.

either of two actors who take turns playing the same role.
an understudy.

Contemporary Examples

I donned the hip-hop attire (not very well), and dreamed of an alternate life as a girl tagger.
The Scandal of the Players Ball Malika Saada Saar December 9, 2010

In real life, there is a nursing shortage, but the alternate universe of television addresses reality more symbolically.
‘Nurse Jackie’ Will Make You Feel Better Caryn James June 6, 2009

I entered this alternate universe when I was researching my book The Diana Chronicles.
Tina Brown: No, Conspiracy Theorists, Princess Diana Was Not Murdered Tina Brown August 18, 2013

With the finale, were there alternate endings to Breaking Bad that were thrown around?
Bryan Cranston on Walter White’s Future, Directing ‘Better Call Saul,’ and Hillary 2016 Marlow Stern July 31, 2014

“Andrew lives in an alternate universe,” the ex-employee says.
Partying All the Way to Jail Peter Davis December 20, 2009

Historical Examples

In velvet, every alternate stitch should be cut and drawn out on the right side with the pile of the goods.
Textiles and Clothing Kate Heintz Watson

Every alternate page was in the phonetic Indian symbols, of which more hereafter.
The Forest Stewart Edward White

Some instances of inconsistent spellings were adjusted when found corrected in an alternate edition of this book.
Dictionary of the Chinook Jargon T. N. Hibben

He amused them and made himself their idol by dint of alternate flattery and blame.
His Masterpiece Emile Zola

Bed-hangings, curtains, and furniture-coverings were covered with alternate squares of lacis and cutwork.
Chats on Old Lace and Needlework Emily Leigh Lowes

verb (ˈɔːltəˌneɪt)
(often foll by with) to occur or cause to occur successively or by turns: day and night alternate
(intransitive) often foll by between. to swing repeatedly from one condition, action, etc, to another: he alternates between success and failure
(transitive) to interchange regularly or in succession
(intransitive) (of an electric current, voltage, etc) to reverse direction or sign at regular intervals, usually sinusoidally, the instantaneous value varying continuously
(theatre) (intransitive) often foll by for. to understudy another actor or actress
adjective (ɔːlˈtɜːnɪt)
occurring by turns: alternate feelings of love and hate
every other or second one of a series: he came to work on alternate days
being a second or further choice; alternative: alternate director

(of leaves, flowers, etc) arranged singly at different heights on either side of the stem
(of parts of a flower) arranged opposite the spaces between other parts Compare opposite (sense 4)

noun (ˈɔːltənɪt; ɔːlˈtɜːnɪt)
(US & Canadian) a person who substitutes for another in his absence; stand-in

1510s, from Latin alternatus “one after the other,” past participle of alternare “to do first one thing then the other; exchange parts,” from alternus “one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal,” from alter “the other” (see alter). Alternate means “by turns;” alternative means “offering a choice.” Both imply two kinds or things.

1590s, from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare (see alternate (adj.)). Replaced Middle English alternen “to vary, alternate” (early 15c.). Related: Alternated; alternating.

1718, “that which alternates (with anything else),” from alternate (adj.). Meaning “a substitute” is first attested 1848.

Arranged singly at intervals on a stem or twig. Elms, birches, oaks, cherry trees, and hickory trees have alternate leaves. Compare opposite.

Arranged regularly between other parts, as stamens between petals on a flower.


Read Also:

  • Alternation

    the act or process of or the state of being . succession; repeated rotation: the alternation of the seasons. Electricity. a single fluctuation in the absolute value of an or voltage from zero to a maximum and back to zero, being equal to one half cycle. Linguistics. variation in the form of a linguistic unit […]

  • Alternation of generations

    the alternation in an organism’s life cycle of dissimilar reproductive forms, especially the alternation of sexual with asexual reproduction. noun the production within the life cycle of an organism of alternating asexual and sexual reproductive forms. It occurs in many plants and lower animals Also called metagenesis, heterogenesis, digenesis, xenogenesis alternation of generations n. The […]

  • Alternative

    a choice limited to one of two or more possibilities, as of things, propositions, or courses of action, the selection of which precludes any other possibility: You have the alternative of riding or walking. one of the things, propositions, or courses of action that can be chosen: The alternative to riding is walking. a possible […]

  • Alternative pathway

    the activation of complement by contact with polysaccharides on bacteria, protozoa, or yeast cells: a nonspecific immune response. Compare .

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