[ os-uh-leyt ]
/ ˈɒs əˌleɪt /

verb (used without object), os·cil·lat·ed, os·cil·lat·ing.

to swing or move to and fro, as a pendulum does.
to vary or vacillate between differing beliefs, opinions, conditions, etc.: He oscillates regularly between elation and despair.
Physics. to have, produce, or generate oscillations.
Mathematics. (of a function, sequence, etc.) to tend to no limit, including infinity: The sequence 0, 1, 0, 1, … oscillates.

verb (used with object), os·cil·lat·ed, os·cil·lat·ing.

to cause to move to and fro; vibrate.

Origin of oscillate

1720–30; < Latin oscillātus (past participle of oscillāre “to swing, ride on a swing”), equivalent to oscill(um) “a swing” + -ātus -ate1

Related forms

in·ter·os·cil·late, verb, in·ter·os·cil·lat·ed, in·ter·os·cil·lat·ing.un·os·cil·lat·ing, adjective

Can be confused

oscillate osculate

Synonym study

1. See swing1.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for oscillate

British Dictionary definitions for oscillate


/ (ˈɒsɪˌleɪt) /


(intr) to move or swing from side to side regularly
(intr) to waver between opinions, courses of action, etc
physics to undergo or produce or cause to undergo or produce oscillation

Word Origin for oscillate

C18: from Latin oscillāre to swing, from oscillum a swing
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

Medicine definitions for oscillate


[ ŏsə-lāt′ ]


To swing back and forth with a steady, uninterrupted rhythm.
To vary between alternate extremes, usually within a definable period of time.

Related forms

oscil•la′tor n.oscil•la•to′ry (-lə-tôr′ē) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.