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 oscillatory (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 But since that March announcement, the Trump administration has oscillated. Chabeli Herrera, orlandosentinel.com, "Vice President Pence looks to NASA’s future as he honors Apollo 11 crew," 20 July 2019 Throughout his tenure as governor, Hogan has oscillated between forging bipartisan alliances — such as crafting a reinsurance plan with Democratic leaders that lowered some health care premium costs — and clashing with rivals across the aisle. Luke Broadwater, baltimoresun.com, "Maryland Democrats deride Gov. Hogan's pledge of bipartisanship as he withholds money intended for Baltimore," 7 July 2019 Meanwhile, oscillating sprinklers are a good choice to water new grass, gardens, or flower beds, since the high-intensity of pulsating sprinklers may wash away your seeds. Paige Szmodis, Popular Mechanics, "Amazon's Daily Deal Will Help Get Your Lawn in Shape for Summer," 22 May 2019 Over the generations, physicists have oscillated between self-assurance and skepticism, periodically giving up on ever finding the deep structure of nature and downgrading physics to the search for scraps of useful knowledge. George Musser, Scientific American, "The Search for Truth in Physics," 25 Aug. 2019 Far below you, heavy things are oscillating, the seismic plates of those leaf springs grinding a perpetual fault line that rattles the china up there in the penthouse. Ezra Dyer, Popular Mechanics, "The Ram 3500 Is Textbook Outrageous," 22 July 2019 But these blocks of allover crayon-box tints are on video, not canvas, and literally oscillate around their edges. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "In the galleries: Pulsating dramas of light and sound," 12 July 2019 The music oscillates between folksy chanting and some sort of cursed Eastern European EDM; the architecture ranges from period-accurate to warehouse districts that look like abandoned lots in the American Midwest. Julie Muncy, WIRED, "Replay: Welp, We Might Be Getting a Final Fantasy XIV TV Show," 28 June 2019 The region's climate system is oscillating more wildly. Craig Welch, National Geographic, "How Amazon forest loss may affect water—and climate—far away," 27 Aug. 2019

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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Statistics for oscillate

Last Updated

6 Nov 2019

Time Traveler for oscillate

The first known use of oscillate was in 1726

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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 oscillatory (audio) \ adjective

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