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[awl-ter] /ˈɔl tər/
verb (used with object)
to make different in some particular, as size, style, course, or the like; modify:
to alter a coat; to alter a will; to alter course.
to castrate or spay.
verb (used without object)
to change; become different or modified.
Origin of alter
1350-1400; Middle English < Old French alterer < Late Latin alterāre to change, worsen, derivative of Latin alter other
Related forms
alterer, noun
half-altered, adjective
prealter, verb (used with object)
realter, verb
unaltering, adjective
well-altered, adjective
Can be confused
altar, alter. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for altering
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • He drew a long breath, for there was a heavy, rustling sound above, as if the man on the roof was altering his position.

    To Win or to Die George Manville Fenn
  • At Beaurepaire they were making and altering wedding-dresses.

    White Lies Charles Reade
  • They tell me you're altering your Will in favour of your son.

    The Forsyte Saga, Complete John Galsworthy
  • Direct payments by the proprietors for altering and writing plays.

    Shakespeare's Family Mrs. C. C. Stopes
  • The carpenter was for altering her, and for cutting adrift the old hulk alongside.

British Dictionary definitions for altering


to make or become different in some respect; change
(transitive) (informal, mainly US) a euphemistic word for castrate, spay
Derived Forms
alterable, adjective
alterably, adverb
alterability, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French alterer, from Medieval Latin alterāre to change, from Latin alter other
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for altering



late 14c., "to change (something)," from Old French alterer "change, alter," from Medieval Latin alterare "to change," from Latin alter "the other (of the two)," from PIE *al- "beyond" (see alias (adv.)) + comparative suffix -ter (cf. other). Intransitive sense "to become otherwise" first recorded 1580s. Related: Altered; altering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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