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[os-uh-leyt] /ˈɒs əˌleɪt/
verb (used without object), oscillated, oscillating.
to swing or move to and fro, as a pendulum does.
to vary or vacillate between differing beliefs, opinions, conditions, etc.:
He oscillates regularly between elation and despair.
Physics. to have, produce, or generate oscillations.
Mathematics. (of a function, sequence, etc.) to tend to no limit, including infinity:
The sequence 0, 1, 0, 1, … oscillates.
verb (used with object), oscillated, oscillating.
to cause to move to and fro; vibrate.
1720-30; < Latin oscillātus (past participle of oscillāre to swing, ride on a swing), equivalent to oscill(um) a swing + -ātus -ate1
Related forms
interoscillate, verb, interoscillated, interoscillating.
unoscillating, adjective
Can be confused
oscillate, osculate.
1. See swing1 . 2. fluctuate, waver. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for oscillates
  • There are actually two distinct proposals mentioned in the article, which confusingly oscillates between them.
  • Changes to the way it is set up can turn a stable rolling wheel into one that oscillates, then into one that is chaotic.
  • The electrons form an unstable bubble of charge that oscillates in a cavity designed for the purpose.
  • Jazz taste oscillates between decorum and expression, usually favoring the latter.
  • When both mechanisms occur together, the system oscillates between them.
  • When the device is shaken, the cantilever oscillates, causing the magnets to move backward and forward across the coil.
  • During the course of the laser pulse, the electric field of the light wave oscillates about a dozen times.
  • The sun's brightness oscillates by a fraction of a percent.
  • In that case, if the bob is pushed slightly to one side, it oscillates back and forth about the equilibrium position.
  • It has a frequency, it has a wavelength, it oscillates.
British Dictionary definitions for oscillates


(intransitive) to move or swing from side to side regularly
(intransitive) to waver between opinions, courses of action, etc
(physics) to undergo or produce or cause to undergo or produce oscillation
Word Origin
C18: from Latin oscillāre to swing, from oscillum a swing
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for oscillates



1726, back-formation from oscillation, or else from Latin oscillatus, past participle of oscillare (see oscillation). From 1917 in electronics. Related: Oscillated; oscillating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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oscillates in Medicine

oscillate os·cil·late (ŏs'ə-lāt')
v. os·cil·lat·ed, os·cil·lat·ing, os·cil·lates

  1. To swing back and forth with a steady, uninterrupted rhythm.

  2. To vary between alternate extremes, usually within a definable period of time.

os'cil·la'tor n.
os'cil·la·to'ry (-lə-tôr'ē) adj.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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