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[awl-ter-ney-shuh n, al-]
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  1. the act or process of alternating or the state of being alternated.
  2. alternate succession; repeated rotation: the alternation of the seasons.
  3. Electricity. a single fluctuation in the absolute value of an alternating current or voltage from zero to a maximum and back to zero, being equal to one half cycle.
  4. Linguistics. variation in the form of a linguistic unit as it occurs in different environments or under different conditions, as between the -ed and -en forms of the past participle in danced and spoken or between the (t) and (d) pronunciations of the past tense suffix -ed in hopped and rubbed.

Origin of alternation

First recorded in 1605–15, alternation is from the Late Latin word alternātiōn- (stem of alternātiō). See alternate, -ion
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for alternation

Historical Examples

  • In this alternation of rapture and despair all her time passes.

    Tales And Novels, Volume 8 (of 10)

    Maria Edgeworth

  • Who would prefer such an alternation to the equable life of pure thought?

  • Observe that Plato is preparing the way for his doctrine of the alternation of opposites.



  • The succession, or alternation of life and death, had occurred to Heracleitus.



  • Combine the last two exercises and give them in alternation.

British Dictionary definitions for alternation


  1. successive change from one condition or action to another and back again repeatedly
  2. logic another name for disjunction (def. 3)
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

Word Origin and History for alternation


mid-15c., from Old French alternacion, from Latin alternationem (nominative alternatio), noun of action from past participle stem of alternare (see alternate (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

alternation in Medicine


([object Object])
  1. Successive change from one thing or state to another and back again.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

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