os·​cil·​late | \ ˈä-sə-ˌlāt How to pronounce oscillate (audio) \
oscillated; oscillating

Definition of oscillate

intransitive verb

1a : to swing backward and forward like a pendulum The fan was oscillating.
b : to move or travel back and forth between two points he oscillates regularly between his comfortable home … and his downtown office-laboratory— Gladwin Hill
2 : to vary between opposing beliefs, feelings, or theories The mood of the voters has oscillated between optimism and pessimism.
3 : to vary above and below a mean value Bank rate oscillates between 2 and 6 percent.

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Other Words from oscillate

oscillatory \ ˈä-​sə-​lə-​ˌtȯr-​ē How to pronounce oscillate (audio) \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for oscillate

swing, sway, oscillate, vibrate, fluctuate, waver, undulate mean to move from one direction to its opposite. swing implies a movement of something attached at one end or one side. the door suddenly swung open sway implies a slow swinging or teetering movement. trees swaying in the breeze oscillate stresses a usually regular alternation of direction. an oscillating fan vibrate suggests the rapid oscillation of an elastic body under stress or impact. the vibrating strings of a piano fluctuate suggests constant irregular changes of level, intensity, or value. fluctuating interest rates waver stresses irregular motion suggestive of reeling or tottering. the exhausted runner wavered before collapsing undulate suggests a gentle wavelike motion. an undulating sea of grass

Examples of oscillate in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web That’s because the higher note has exactly twice the frequency, leading the two sound waves to oscillate together neatly. Eugenia Cheng, WSJ, "Bach and My Musical Advent Calendar," 23 Dec. 2020 Indeed, already much of the fashion content that has come out of the pandemic has seemed to oscillate between shame and denial. New York Times, "Can Fashion Photography Survive the Pandemic?," 26 Oct. 2020 But their physiology—such as body temperature or excretion of metabolites—almost always continued to oscillate within a narrow band of 24 to 26 hours. Jo Marchant, Wired, "The Oysters That Knew What Time It Was," 1 Sep. 2020 These natural climate patterns can cause ocean temperatures to oscillate between warmer and cooler cycles. Chelsea Harvey, Scientific American, "Antarctica’s Ice Shelves Have Lost Millions of Metric Tons of Ice," 12 Aug. 2020 These cyclical wobbles, called Milankovitch cycles, cause the amount of sunlight to vary at middle latitudes by up to 25% and cause the climate to oscillate. Quanta Magazine, "How Earth’s Climate Changes Naturally (and Why Things Are Different Now)," 21 July 2020 According to a National Weather Services, damaging winds and possible tornadoes are expected in the Northern High Plains as winds are expected to oscillate south to southeast across the Northern Rockies and inter-mountain West on Sunday. Khrysgiana Pineda, USA TODAY, "Residents in over 20 states may get severe weather this weekend," 27 June 2020 Your thinking must oscillate between an awareness of the whole fishing environment and a focus on your lure. Mark Hicks, Field & Stream, "10 Ways to Catch More Largemouth Bass," 15 June 2020 Rather, oscillating on-and-off sunshine is more likely. A. Camden Walker, Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Warmth bursts onto the scene today, before waning somewhat through the weekend," 15 May 2020

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

1726, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for oscillate

Latin oscillatus, past participle of oscillare to swing, from oscillum swing

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Time Traveler for oscillate

Time Traveler

The first known use of oscillate was in 1726

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Statistics for oscillate

Last Updated

27 Dec 2020

Cite this Entry

“Oscillate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oscillate. Accessed 20 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for oscillate


How to pronounce oscillate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of oscillate

: to move in one direction and then back again many times
formal : to keep changing from one belief, feeling, condition, etc., to an opposite one
technical : to change in strength or direction regularly


os·​cil·​late | \ ˈä-sə-ˌlāt How to pronounce oscillate (audio) \
oscillated; oscillating

Kids Definition of oscillate

: to swing or move back and forth between two points
os·​cil·​late | \ ˈäs-ə-ˌlāt How to pronounce oscillate (audio) \
oscillated; oscillating

Medical Definition of oscillate

1 : to swing backward and forward like a pendulum
2 : to move or travel back and forth between two points

Other Words from oscillate

oscillatory \ ˈäs-​ə-​lə-​ˌtōr-​ē, -​ˌtȯr-​ How to pronounce oscillate (audio) \ adjective

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Comments on oscillate

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