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.

Nearby words

  1. oscheal,
  2. oscheitis,
  3. oscheo-,
  4. oscheohydrocele,
  5. oscheoplasty,
  6. oscillating circuit,
  7. oscillating engine,
  8. oscillating universe,
  9. oscillating universe theory,
  10. oscillating vision

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 formsin·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 confusedoscillate 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



(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

Word Origin and History for oscillate



1726, back-formation from oscillation, or else from Latin oscillatus, past participle of oscillare (see oscillation). From 1917 in electronics. Related: Oscillated; oscillating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Medicine definitions for oscillate




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