al·​ter·​na·​tion | \ ˌȯl-tər-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce alternation (audio) also ˌal- \

Definition of alternation

1a : the act or process of alternating or causing to alternate
b : alternating occurrence : succession
3 : the occurrence of different allomorphs or allophones

Examples of alternation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Nowotny and his team have found that separable odors aren’t perceived at the same time; rather, the coffee and croissant odors are processed very rapidly in alternation. Quanta Magazine, "New AI Strategy Mimics How Brains Learn to Smell," 18 Sep. 2018 Dramatic shifts in the ideological makeup of both parties during that same period did not upset that alternation of power. Dylan Matthews, Vox, "The “do what you want” theory of politics," 18 July 2018 But in a democracy, a workable regulatory system needs to be able to survive the regular alternation of parties in power. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Donald Trump is making Medicare-for-all inevitable," 3 Aug. 2018 Miller thinks the brain is juggling the items being held in working memory one at a time, in alternation. Jordana Cepelewicz, WIRED, "When Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks Your Brain Out of Sync," 9 June 2018 Three shadows underwent slight alternations, including name changes. Devon Abelman, Allure, "7 Ways Huda Beauty's New Rose Gold Remastered Eye Palette Is Different From the Original," 25 May 2018 As Matt Stiles wrote from Seoul, the alternation between bellicose statements and peaceful ones is a classic North Korea ploy, which the ruling Kim dynasty has used for decades to keep its adversaries off balance. David Lauter,, "Robert Mueller, Kim Jong Un and the psychology of the president," 18 May 2018 There is one minor alternation to the original option many saw, with everyone on McDonough Street now zoned for F.AVE. Bill Banks, ajc, "Decatur board approves new boundaries for elementary schools," 26 Apr. 2018 The 80-some piece collection employs a breadth of handicrafts from Japanese boro, Spanish shearling intarsia (a method of color alternation), African patchwork from Togo and Senegal, and ribbon embroidery from India. Lilah Ramzi, Vogue, "Jonathan Anderson Traveled the Globe to Create Loewe’s New Blankets," 17 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alternation.' 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 alternation

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for alternation

Middle English alternacioun, borrowed from Anglo-French, borrowed from Latin alternātiōn-, alternātiō, from alternāre "to ebb and flow, act in alternation, arrange in alternating order" + -tiōn-, -tiō, suffix of verbal action — more at alternate entry 1

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Time Traveler for alternation

Time Traveler

The first known use of alternation was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Alternation.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for alternation


al·​ter·​na·​tion | \ ˌȯl-tər-ˈnā-shən How to pronounce alternation (audio) \

Kids Definition of alternation

: the act, process, or result of taking place by turns alternation of light and dark

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More from Merriam-Webster on alternation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with alternation

Spanish Central: Translation of alternation

Nglish: Translation of alternation for Spanish Speakers

Comments on alternation

What made you want to look up alternation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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