• synonyms


[awl-ter-ney-ter, al-]
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noun Electricity.
  1. a generator of alternating current.
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Origin of alternator

First recorded in 1890–95; alternate + -or2
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words for alternator

dynamo, alternator

Examples from the Web for alternator

Historical Examples of alternator

  • The other appears to have in it a resistance and a battery (or else an alternator).

    Letters of a Radio-Engineer to His Son

    John Mills

  • The roar of the alternator died down, first to a hum and then to a purr.

  • I was up here—loading the condenser—when you cut me off from the alternator.

  • The alternator began to buzz and spark, crackling viciously.

  • Each vertical row comprises the measuring instruments for an alternator.

British Dictionary definitions for alternator


  1. an electrical machine that generates an alternating current
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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 alternator


1878, agent noun in Latin form from alternate (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

alternator in Science


  1. An electric generator that produces alternating current. The generator's coil is rotated (by a turbine, motor, or other power source), and its circular path causes it to cut cross a magnetic field (set up by strong magnets), first in one direction, then the other, with each cycle. The electric potential induced in the coil by this motion thus alternates between positive and negative once with each cycle, resulting in alternating current. See more at induction.
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The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.