oscillate

verb os·cil·late \ ˈä-sə-ˌlāt \
Updated on: 11 Dec 2017

Definition of oscillate

oscillated; oscillating
intransitive verb
1 a : 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.

oscillatory

play \ˈä-sə-lə-ˌtȯr-ē\ adjective

Recent Examples of oscillate from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of oscillate

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

OSCILLATE Defined for English Language Learners

oscillate

verb

Definition of oscillate for English Language Learners

  • : to move in one direction and then back again many times

  • : to keep changing from one belief, feeling, condition, etc., to an opposite one

  • : to change in strength or direction regularly


OSCILLATE Defined for Kids

oscillate

verb os·cil·late \ ˈä-sə-ˌlāt \

Definition of oscillate for Students

oscillated; oscillating
: to swing or move back and forth between two points

Medical Dictionary

oscillate

intransitive verb os·cil·late \ ˈäs-ə-ˌlāt \

medical Definition of oscillate

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

oscillatory

play \ˈäs-ə-lə-ˌtōr-ē, -ˌtȯr-\ adjective


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