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 Cory and Kam oscillate between second and third place. Kyndall Cunningham, Vulture, "The Challenge: Double Agents Recap: Running Up That Hill," 15 Apr. 2021 Bigger and thicker plates oscillate more slowly, and so send out a deeper note. Helen Czerski, WSJ, "The Subtle Acoustics of Our Dishware," 8 Apr. 2021 Second baseman Luis Arraez came up to the Twins in 2019 and will now oscillate through his main position, third base and even left field. Megan Ryan, Star Tribune, "Twins starting infielders have seen little time together this spring," 21 Mar. 2021 Cloud levels oscillate but generally cover the stars more often than not. Washington Post, "D.C.-area forecast: Not as warm but still comfortable today, with a few showers possible," 12 Mar. 2021 Tapping the computer keyboard, Greatrex instructed the rotor to oscillate its speed. Joshua Rothman, The New Yorker, "How to Build an Artificial Heart," 1 Mar. 2021 The Wayfair bestseller comes with a remote control and can oscillate up to 70-degrees to better distribute the heat. Nicole Saunders, NBC News, "6 best affordable space heaters under $50," 25 Feb. 2021 Flu rates tend to oscillate, Pavia said, with a mild year often followed by a severe one. Sean P. Means, The Salt Lake Tribune, "Two childhood viruses at near zero, a ‘good side effect of COVID-19,’ a Utah pediatrician says," 22 Feb. 2021 Like any long-term couple, Malcolm and Marie oscillate between heated conversations and tender touches, their anger towards each other complicated by their long history and obvious mutual love. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, "Zendaya Hopes You Won’t Hate Her After Watching Netflix’s Malcolm & Marie," 10 Jan. 2021

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

20 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Oscillate.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/oscillate. Accessed 12 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for oscillate



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


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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