al·​ter | \ ˈȯl-tər How to pronounce alter (audio) \
altered; altering\ ˈȯl-​t(ə-​)riŋ How to pronounce alter (audio) \

Definition of alter

transitive verb

1 : to make different without changing into something else an event that altered the course of history
2 : castrate, spay had the puppies altered

intransitive verb

: to become different customs that alter with the times

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Other Words from alter

alterability \ ˌȯl-​t(ə-​)rə-​ˈbi-​lə-​tē How to pronounce alter (audio) \ noun
alterable \ ˈȯl-​t(ə-​)rə-​bəl How to pronounce alter (audio) \ adjective
alterably \ ˈȯl-​t(ə-​)rə-​blē How to pronounce alter (audio) \ adverb
alterer \ ˈȯl-​tər-​ər How to pronounce alter (audio) \ noun

Choose the Right Synonym for alter

change, alter, vary, modify mean to make or become different. change implies making either an essential difference often amounting to a loss of original identity or a substitution of one thing for another. changed the shirt for a larger size alter implies a difference in some particular respect without suggesting loss of identity. slightly altered the original design vary stresses a breaking away from sameness, duplication, or exact repetition. vary your daily routine modify suggests a difference that limits, restricts, or adapts to a new purpose. modified the building for use by the disabled

Examples of alter in a Sentence

Alcohol can alter a person's mood. He altered his will to leave everything to his sister. This one small event altered the course of history. The place has altered in the 10 years since I left. I'll need to have the dress altered before the wedding.
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Recent Examples on the Web But demographers doubt such efforts can alter the long-term trend. Grady Mcgregor, Fortune, "Is China’s population growing or shrinking? It’s a touchy topic for Beijing," 30 Apr. 2021 With regard to Donohue's hand gesture, the letter also notes that the Jeopardy production team has in the past taken measures to reshoot or even digitally alter moments deemed unsuitable for broadcast. Rachel Yang,, "Over 450 past Jeopardy contestants call on show to address alleged 'white power' symbol," 29 Apr. 2021 Harris, however, would supply Ben Roethlisberger with someone who could alter the complexion of the attack both as a runner and receiver. Michael Middlehurst-schwartz, USA TODAY, "NFL mock draft 2021: Justin Fields, Trey Lance are last pieces in QB puzzle for final projection," 29 Apr. 2021 Despite the committee’s support, there was some confusion among committee members over whether an endorsement for permanent daylight saving in one state could alter the current time zone alignment. John Sharp, al, "Spring forward, forever: Alabama lawmakers advance permanent daylight saving time," 28 Apr. 2021 The amendment confirmed an understanding that only a constitutional amendment could alter its status or the scope of its right to representation. WSJ, "D.C. Statehood Needs a Constitutional Fix," 28 Apr. 2021 Anita Kurian, assistant director of the Metropolitan Health District’s communicable disease division, addressed concerns that the vaccines can alter a person’s DNA. Scott Huddleston, San Antonio Express-News, "San Antonio shifts COVID-19 vaccinations to small pop-up clinics, messaging to combat hesitancy," 26 Apr. 2021 The study offers a glimpse into how mutations could alter clinical outcomes, Esper said. Evan Macdonald, cleveland, "Earliest coronavirus variants from spring 2020 were more contagious but less severe than initial strains, Cleveland Clinic and CWRU study finds," 26 Apr. 2021 That means the traumatic exposures of racist and xenophobic violence and discrimination hold the power to disrupt psychological and physiological functioning and alter genetic code for generations to come. Amelia Noor-oshiro, The Conversation, "Asian American young adults are the only racial group with suicide as their leading cause of death, so why is no one talking about this?," 23 Apr. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alter.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of alter

14th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for alter

Middle English alteren "to change, transform," borrowed from Anglo-French & Late Latin; Anglo-French alterer, borrowed from Late Latin alterāre, verbal derivative of Latin alter "second, another, next," derivative, with the suffix of opposition -ter-, from the base of alius "other" — more at else entry 1

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Time Traveler for alter

Time Traveler

The first known use of alter was in the 14th century

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Statistics for alter

Last Updated

5 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Alter.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for alter



English Language Learners Definition of alter

: to change (something)
: to make a change to (a piece of clothing) so that it will fit better
US : to remove the sex organs of (an animal) so that the animal is unable to reproduce


al·​ter | \ ˈȯl-tər How to pronounce alter (audio) \
altered; altering

Kids Definition of alter

: to change partly but not completely … each time he had altered his course.— Walter Farley, The Black Stallion
al·​ter | \ ˈȯl-tər \
altered; altering\ -​t(ə-​)riŋ \

Medical Definition of alter

 (Entry 1 of 2)



Medical Definition of alter (Entry 2 of 2)

: one of the distinct identities or personality states manifested in an individual with multiple personality disorder

More from Merriam-Webster on alter

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for alter

Nglish: Translation of alter for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alter for Arabic Speakers

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