Definition of “alternate” - English Dictionary

“alternate” in British English

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uk /ˈɒl.tə.neɪt/ us /ˈɑːl.tɚ.neɪt/

C1 [ I usually + adv/prep ] to happen or exist one after the other repeatedly:

She alternated between cheerfulness and deep despair.

[ T usually + adv/prep ] to make something happen or exist one after the other repeatedly:

He alternated working in the office with long tours overseas.

More examples

  • In this type of mental illness, the usual pattern is bouts of depression alternating with elation.
  • Throughout the holiday, the weather alternated between rain and sunshine every day.
  • She swam up and down, alternating between crawl and backstroke.
  • Saturdays at the club alternate between 1970s disco and house/garage.
  • The area boasts miles of unspoilt coastline alternating between cliffs and sandy beaches.

alternateadjective [ before noun ]

uk /ɒlˈtɜː.nət/ us /ˈɑːl.tɝː.nət/

alternatenoun [ C ]

/ˈɒl.tə.nət/ /ˈɑːl.tɝː.nət/
adverb uk /ɒlˈtɜː.nə us /ɑːlˈtɝː.nə

The film is alternately depressing and amusing.
adjective uk /ˈɒl.tə.neɪ.tɪŋ/ us /ˈɑːl.tɚ.neɪ.t̬ɪŋ/

alternating moods of anger and sadness

(Definition of “alternate” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

“alternate” in American English

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alternateverb [ I/T ]

us /ˈɔl·tərˌneɪt/

to cause two things to happen or exist one after the other:

[ I ] The children alternated between being excited and being tired.
[ T ] I like to alternate physical and intellectual activities.

alternateadjective [ not gradable ]

us /ˈɔl·tər·nət/

every second, or every other:

I visit my father on alternate weekends.
Note: Used only about sets of two.

alternatenoun [ C ]

us /ˈɔl·tər·nət/

one that can take the place of another:

David was too sick to attend, so Janet served as his alternate.

(Definition of “alternate” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

“alternate” in Business English

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alternatenoun [ C ]

uk /ˈɒltənət/ us US

WORKPLACE a person who does another person's job when they are ill or away:

He was dismissed and replaced with an alternate.

(Definition of “alternate” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)