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 The formal structure is modelled on the basin-and-range topography of western North America, with its relentless alternation of mountain uplift and desert flats. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 16 May 2022 That push and pull, like the alternation of clarity and opacity in his biography, also haunts his pictures. Susan Tallman, The Atlantic, 6 Apr. 2022 In linguistics, code-switching (or language alternation) occurs when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation or situation. Chadd Scott, Forbes, 13 Mar. 2022 Yes, there can be legitimate alternation between parties and governing ideologies. Damon Linker, The Week, 15 Feb. 2022 But liberal democracy — self-government, the system itself — only works if the rules for the alternation of political power are considered legitimate by everyone. Damon Linker, The Week, 4 June 2021 The state transportation agency searched physical alternation permit records and found no permits were issued to any private property owner for the installation of a private drain., 6 Oct. 2021 Barry will be required to apply for a physical alternation permit with the RIDOT and the R.I. Department of Emergency Management for any necessary soil, erosion control and wetlands permits., 6 Oct. 2021 Doerr likes to start in medias res, and then to go back to the origins of his stories and work forward again (or forward and backward and forward again, in alternation). James Wood, The New Yorker, 27 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near alternation

alternating series


alternation of generations

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Statistics for alternation

Last Updated

1 Jun 2022

Cite this Entry

“Alternation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Jul. 2022.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on alternation

Nglish: Translation of alternation for Spanish Speakers


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