Synonyms of oscillate

1 to move back and forth in a rhythmic manner
  • When a guitar string is plucked, it oscillates to produce sound waves in the air.

Synonyms & Near Synonyms for oscillate

2 to continuously change from one belief, feeling, or condition to an opposite one
  • The model's hair color oscillates between bleach blond and jet black.

Synonyms & Near Synonyms for oscillate

See the Dictionary Definition 

Frequently Asked Questions About oscillate

How does the verb oscillate differ from other similar words?

Some common synonyms of oscillate are fluctuate, sway, swing, undulate, vibrate, and waver. While all these words mean "to move from one direction to its opposite," oscillate stresses a usually regular alternation of direction.

an oscillating fan

Where would fluctuate be a reasonable alternative to oscillate?

While the synonyms fluctuate and oscillate are close in meaning, fluctuate suggests constant irregular changes of level, intensity, or value.

fluctuating interest rates

When is it sensible to use sway instead of oscillate?

The words sway and oscillate are synonyms, but do differ in nuance. Specifically, sway implies a slow swinging or teetering movement.

trees swaying in the breeze

When is swing a more appropriate choice than oscillate?

The synonyms swing and oscillate are sometimes interchangeable, but swing implies a movement of something attached at one end or one side.

the door suddenly swung open

In what contexts can undulate take the place of oscillate?

The meanings of undulate and oscillate largely overlap; however, undulate suggests a gentle wavelike motion.

an undulating sea of grass

When would vibrate be a good substitute for oscillate?

While in some cases nearly identical to oscillate, vibrate suggests the rapid oscillation of an elastic body under stress or impact.

the vibrating strings of a piano

When could waver be used to replace oscillate?

Although the words waver and oscillate have much in common, waver stresses irregular motion suggestive of reeling or tottering.

the exhausted runner wavered before collapsing

Learn More About oscillate

Time Traveler for oscillate

Time Traveler

The first known use of oscillate was in 1726

See more words from the same year

Thesaurus Entries Near oscillate




See More Nearby Entries 

Cite this Entry

“Oscillate.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2022.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

More from Merriam-Webster on oscillate

Nglish: Translation of oscillate for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of oscillate for Arabic Speakers


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Named After People

  • name tags
  • Namesake of the leotard, Jules Léotard had what profession?
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!