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.

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 The first and most well-known parameter, charge-parity (CP) violation, dictates whether neutrinos and their antiparticle counterparts oscillate in the same way, and could help explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. Thomas Lewton, Scientific American, 13 Apr. 2022 Neither Donald Trump nor the woke left inspires confidence around the world, and an American political system that appears doomed to oscillate between them won’t indefinitely maintain the leadership on which America’s peace and security depend. Walter Russell Mead, WSJ, 21 Mar. 2022 While the real world continued to oscillate between open and closed, video games remained a constant for some of us here at The Times. New York Times, 2 Jan. 2022 Few writers have the breadth of knowledge that permits them to oscillate between discussions of King, then Kanye; Nelson Mandela, then Nicki Minaj; Jesse Jackson, then Michael Jackson; Derrick Bell, then DMX. Washington Post, 30 Dec. 2021 Whilst this is expected to oscillate with crypto markets, in general its tendency is to grow and expand into different sectors of the digital economy. Lawrence Wintermeyer, Forbes, 7 Dec. 2021 When light interacts with certain objects, like crystals, its waveform changes and begins to oscillate with a unique signature. Julian Chokkattu, Wired, 20 Jan. 2022 Today, our countdown clocks and countdowns continue to oscillate between genesis and apocalypse. Alexis Mccrossen, Smithsonian Magazine, 30 Dec. 2021 The difference in length between the two arms will oscillate — behavior that reveals the distortion of the circle, and the passing of the gravitational wave. Katie Mccormick, Quanta Magazine, 8 Dec. 2021 See More

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.

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

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The first known use of oscillate was in 1726

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Dictionary Entries Near oscillate



oscillating current

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Last Updated

2 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Oscillate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oscillate. Accessed 22 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for oscillate


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


intransitive verb
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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