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From Latin alternō (“take turns”), from alternus (“one after another, by turns”), from alter (“other”) + -rnus. See altern, alter.
- Adjective, noun
alternate (not comparable)
- Happening by turns; one following the other in succession of time or place; first one and then the other (repeatedly).
- Alternate picking is a guitar playing technique.
- 1709, [Alexander Pope], An Essay on Criticism, London: […] W. Lewis […], published 1711, →OCLC:
- And bid alternate passions fall and rise
- 1960 September, “Talking of Trains: Newcastle signal area enlarged”, in Trains Illustrated, page 522:
- One of the two boxes displaced by the new Pelaw installation will be Springwell, between Boldon Colliery and Pelaw, which has recently had the distinction of being manned by a husband and wife on alternate shifts.
- 2021 December 15, Robin Leleux, “Awards honour the best restoration projects: The Arch Company Award for Urban Heritage: Knaresborough”, in RAIL, number 946, page 56:
- The service is half-hourly as far as Harrogate and Knaresborough, with alternate trains going on to York.
- (heraldry) Alternating; (of e.g. a pair of tinctures which a charge is coloured) succeeding in turns, or (relative to the field) counterchanged.
- 1925, The Jewish Encyclopedia: Chazars-Dreyfus Case, page 128:
- Goldschmidt (Austria; creation July 27, 1862): [...] party, argent and gules, an eagle of alternate colors, [...]
- (mathematics) Designating the members in a series, which regularly intervene between the members of another series, as the odd or even numbers of the numerals; every other; every second.
- the alternate members 1, 3, 5, 7, etc.
- (US) Other; alternative.
- Hyperlinked text is displayed in alternate color in a Web browser.
- He lives in an alternate universe and an alternate reality.
- (botany, of leaves) Distributed singly at different heights of the stem, and at equal intervals as respects angular divergence
- Many trees have alternate leaf arrangement (e.g. birch, oak and mulberry).
- In British English this adjective means, according to OED and other sources, one after the other or similar. It does not mean the same as alternative, which OED specifically marks as an American meaning of alternate. In international English it is thus thought better to observe the British distinction: then the meanings of alternative and alternate will be clear to everyone.
being or succeeding by turns
mathematics: designating the members in a series
botany: distributed, as leaves
alternate (plural alternates)
- That which alternates with something else; vicissitude.
- 1718, Mat[thew] Prior, “Solomon on the Vanity of the World. A Poem in Three Books.”, in Poems on Several Occasions, London: […] Jacob Tonson […], and John Barber […], →OCLC, (please specify the page):
- Grateful alternates of substantial peace.
- (US) A substitute; an alternative; one designated to take the place of another, if necessary, in performing some duty.
- (mathematics) A proportion derived from another proportion by interchanging the means.
- (US) A replacement of equal or greater value or function.
that which alternates
proportion derived from another
alternate (third-person singular simple present alternates, present participle alternating, simple past and past participle alternated)
- (transitive) To perform by turns, or in succession; to cause to succeed by turns; to interchange regularly.
- 1701, Nehemiah Grew, Cosmologia Sacra:
- The most high God, in all things appertaining unto this life, for sundry wise ends alternates the disposition of good and evil.
- (intransitive) To happen, succeed, or act by turns; to follow reciprocally in place or time; followed by with.
- The flood and ebb tides alternate with each other.
- (intransitive) To vary by turns.
- The land alternates between rocky hills and sandy plains.
- (transitive, geometry) To perform an alternation (removal of alternate vertices) on (a polytope or tessellation); to remove vertices (from a face or edge) as part of an alternation.
- 1932, Harold Scott Macdonald Coxeter, The densities of the regular polytopes, part 2, reprinted in 1995, F. Arthur Sherk, Peter Mcmullen, Anthony C. Thompson, Asia Ivić Weiss (editors), Kaleidoscopes: Selected Writings of H. S. M. Coxeter, page 54:
- This case suggests that the alternation of a polyhedron should be bounded by actual vertex figures and alternated faces. The case of the cube is in agreement with this notion, since the alternated square is nothing.
to perform by turns
to happen, succeed, or act by turns
to vary by turns
- alternate at OneLook Dictionary Search
- The Manual of Heraldry, Fifth Edition, by Anonymous, London, 1862, online at 
- “alternate”, in Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, Springfield, Mass.: G. & C. Merriam, 1913, →OCLC.
- “alternate”, in The Century Dictionary […], New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., 1911, →OCLC.
- Douglas Harper (2001–2023), “alternate”, in Online Etymology Dictionary.
- inflection of alternare:
alternate f pl
- second-person singular voseo imperative of alternar combined with te
- English terms derived from Proto-Indo-European
- English terms derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *h₂el- (other)
- English terms derived from Latin
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