Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

alternate - definition and synonyms

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Thesaurus diagram

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary. Click on the thesaurus category heading under the button in an entry to see the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

verb     alternate pronunciation in British English
Word Forms
present tense
present participlealternating
past tensealternated
past participlealternated
  1. 1
    [intransitive] if one thing alternates with another, they happen or come one after another, in a regular pattern that keeps being repeated
    alternate with:

    Wet days alternated with dry ones.

    1. a.
      if someone or something alternates between two things, they keep changing between them
      alternate between:

      His mood alternates between joy and despair.

  2. 2
    [intransitive/transitive] to choose one thing or situation and then another, and keep repeating that pattern
    alternate something with something:

    The course allows students to alternate work with education.

    She alternated blues and gospel songs throughout the evening.

    The White House has alternated between tough talk and silence.

derived word


     alternation pronunciation in British English
/ˌɔːltə(r)ˈneɪʃ(ə)n/ noun [countable/uncountable]
Word Forms
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Open Dictionary

snap election

a general election … that is called earlier than expected

add a word


A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog
Macmillan learn live love play