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alternate (adj.)

"following each other by turns, reciprocal," 1510s, from Latin alternatus "one after the other," past participle of alternare "to do first one thing then the other; exchange parts," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter).

Alternate means "by turns;" alternative means "offering a choice." Both imply two kinds or things. Alternation is the process of two things following one another regularly by turns (as night and day); an alternative is a choice of two things, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other. Related: Alternacy.

alternate (v.)

1590s, "do by turns" (transitive), from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare "do one thing and then another, do by turns," from alternus "one after the other, alternate, in turns, reciprocal," from alter "the other" (see alter). Replaced Middle English alternen "to vary, alternate" (early 15c.). Transitive meaning "interchange reciprocally" is from 1850; intransitive sense "follow one another in time or place" is from c. 1700; that of "pass back and forth between actions, conditions, etc." is by 1823. Related: Alternated; alternating.

alternate (n.)

1718, "that which alternates (with anything else)," from alternate (adj.). Meaning "a substitute, one authorized to take the place of another," especially in political bodies, is first attested 1848.

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Definitions of alternate from WordNet
1
alternate (v.)
go back and forth; swing back and forth between two states or conditions;
Synonyms: jump
alternate (v.)
exchange people temporarily to fulfill certain jobs and functions;
alternate (v.)
be an understudy or alternate for a role;
Synonyms: understudy
alternate (v.)
reverse (a direction, attitude, or course of action);
Synonyms: interchange / tack / switch / flip / flip-flop
alternate (v.)
do something in turns;
Synonyms: take turns
2
alternate (adj.)
every second one of a series; "jam every other day"- the White Queen;
the cleaning lady comes on alternate Wednesdays
alternate (adj.)
occurring by turns; first one and then the other;
Synonyms: alternating
alternate (adj.)
serving or used in place of another;
Synonyms: alternative / substitute
alternate (adj.)
of leaves and branches etc; first on one side and then on the other in two ranks along an axis; not paired;
stems with alternate leaves
3
alternate (n.)
someone who takes the place of another person;
Synonyms: surrogate / replacement
From wordnet.princeton.edu