Also found in: Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Idioms, Encyclopedia.


 (ôl′tər-nāt′, ăl′-)
v. al·ter·nat·ed, al·ter·nat·ing, al·ter·nates
a. To occur in a successive manner: day alternating with night.
b. To act or proceed by turns: The students alternated at the computer.
2. To pass back and forth from one state, action, or place to another: alternated between happiness and depression.
3. Electricity To reverse direction at regular intervals in a circuit.
1. To do or execute by turns.
2. To cause to alternate: alternated light and dark squares to form a pattern.
adj. (-nĭt)
1. Happening or following in turns; succeeding each other continuously: alternate seasons of the year.
2. Designating or relating to every other one of a series: alternate lines.
3. Serving or used in place of another; substitute: an alternate plan. See Usage Note at alternative.
4. Botany
a. Arranged singly at each node, as leaves or buds on different sides of a stem.
b. Arranged regularly between other parts, as stamens between petals.
n. (-nĭt)
1. A person acting in the place of another; a substitute.
2. An alternative.

[Latin alternāre, alternāt-, from alternus, by turns, from alter, other; see al- in Indo-European roots.]

al′ter·nate·ly adv.


in an alternating sequence or position


1. 'alternately'

You use alternately to say that two actions or processes keep happening regularly after each other.

Each piece of material is washed alternately in soft water and coconut oil.
She became alternately angry and calm.
2. 'alternatively'

You use alternatively to give a different explanation from one that has just been mentioned, or to suggest a different course of action.

It is on sale there now for just £9.97. Alternatively, you can buy the album by mail order for just £10.
Alternatively, you can use household bleach.
ThesaurusAntonymsRelated WordsSynonymsLegend:
Adv.1.alternately - in an alternating sequence or positionalternately - in an alternating sequence or position; "They were deglycerolized by alternately centrifuging and mixing"; "he planted fir and pine trees alternately"
til skiptis


[ɒlˈtɜːnɪtlɪ] ADV the meetings took place alternately in France and Germanylas reuniones se celebraron una vez en Francia y la siguiente en Alemania
he could alternately bully and charm peopleun momento podía intimidar a la gente y al siguiente embelesarles
I lived alternately with my mother and my grandmothervivía unas veces con mi madre y otras con mi abuela
she became alternately angry and calmsu ánimo iba de la ira a la calma y vice versa
we have Mondays off alternatelynos turnamos para librar el lunes


[ɔːlˈtɜːrnɪtli] adv (= by turns) → successivement, tour à tour
to cry and laugh alternately → passer du rire aux larmes
alternately fascinating and shocking → tantôt fascinant(e), tantôt choquant(e)


(= in turn)im Wechsel, wechselweise, (immer) abwechselnd


[ɒlˈtɜːnɪtlɪ] advalternatamente


(ˈoːltəneit) verb
to use, do etc by turns, repeatedly, one after the other. John alternates between teaching and studying; He tried to alternate red and yellow tulips along the path as he planted them.
(oːlˈtəːnət) adjective
1. coming, happening etc in turns, one after the other. The water came in alternate bursts of hot and cold.
2. every second (day, week etc). My friend and I take the children to school on alternate days.
alˈternately (-ˈtəːnət-) adverb
She felt alternately hot and cold.
alterˈnation noun
References in classic literature ?
This expectation was is no degree diminished, when, by the doubtful twilight, he beheld twenty or thirty forms rising alternately from the cover of the tall, coarse grass, in front of the lodges, and then sinking again from the sight, as it were to burrow in the earth.
I remember that the other day, when we passed the shanty of that Pike County family on the slope, there were three women at the door, and one of them said something that made poor little Kearney turn white and pink alternately, and dance with suppressed rage.
The manner in which the Bishop describes it, as alternately rising and sinking, with some other particulars he narrates, in all this the two correspond.
And George and Tom moved to a comfortable seat in the chimney-corner, while Aunte Chloe, after baking a goodly pile of cakes, took her baby on her lap, and began alternately filling its mouth and her own, and distributing to Mose and Pete, who seemed rather to prefer eating theirs as they rolled about on the floor under the table, tickling each other, and occasionally pulling the baby's toes.
The lightning came quick and sharp now, and the place was alternately noonday and midnight.
She spent whole hours at the pianoforte alternately singing and crying; her voice often totally suspended by her tears.
He spread the pictures before him, and again surveyed them alternately.
Afterwards, she refused to eat, and now she alternately raves and remains in a half dream; knowing those about her, but having her mind filled with all sorts of strange ideas and illusions.
Mary alternately cried and slept through the hours.
She may lie on that bed for weeks to come; passing alternately, without a gleam of consciousness, from a state of delirium to a state of repose.
Peggotty, standing with his legs pretty wide apart, and rubbing his hands up and down them in his comfortable satisfaction, as he looked alternately at us and at the fire.
Thus I made the second discovery on that first occasion, that the nurture of the little Pockets consisted of alternately tumbling up and lying down.