- 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 alternation 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.
- alternative(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.
Origin of alternate
- (often foll by with) to occur or cause to occur successively or by turnsday and night alternate
- (intr often foll by between) to swing repeatedly from one condition, action, etc, to anotherhe alternates between success and failure
- (tr) to interchange regularly or in succession
- (intr) (of an electric current, voltage, etc) to reverse direction or sign at regular intervals, usually sinusoidally, the instantaneous value varying continuously
- (intr often foll by for) theatre to understudy another actor or actress
- occurring by turnsalternate feelings of love and hate
- every other or second one of a serieshe came to work on alternate days
- being a second or further choice; alternativealternate 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 partsCompare opposite (def. 4)
- US and Canadian a person who substitutes for another in his absence; stand-in
Word Origin for alternate
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.
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.