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[awl-ter] /ˈɔl tər/
verb (used with object)
to make different in some particular, as size, style, course, or the like; modify:
to alter a coat; to alter a will; to alter course.
to castrate or spay.
verb (used without object)
to change; become different or modified.
1350-1400; Middle English < Old French alterer < Late Latin alterāre to change, worsen, derivative of Latin alter other
Related forms
alterer, noun
half-altered, adjective
prealter, verb (used with object)
realter, verb
unaltering, adjective
well-altered, adjective
Can be confused
altar, alter.
1. See adjust, change. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for alters
  • The repeal of the controversial law alters the field for training officers on college campuses.
  • Color is a fundamental part of a city's skin, and it alters moods and perceptions.
  • To protect the privacy of his subjects, he says, he resorts to pseudonyms and alters biographical details.
  • There is something about being in water and swimming which alters the writer's mood, gets his thoughts going, as nothing else can.
  • Every thought which genius and piety throw into the world, alters the world.
  • He alters his mind as the work proceeds, and will have this or that convenience more, of which he had not thought when he began.
  • Their sensibility alters the object, but never transforms it.
  • The meandering path continues to widen the valley floor as falling sediment forever alters the course and builds up a river plain.
  • The salt alters how sound waves reflect off the rock layers.
  • Speleologists are called in, and yet another astounding find alters the picture.
British Dictionary definitions for alters


to make or become different in some respect; change
(transitive) (informal, mainly US) a euphemistic word for castrate, spay
Derived Forms
alterable, adjective
alterably, adverb
alterability, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French alterer, from Medieval Latin alterāre to change, from Latin alter other
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 alters



late 14c., "to change (something)," from Old French alterer "change, alter," from Medieval Latin alterare "to change," from Latin alter "the other (of the two)," from PIE *al- "beyond" (see alias (adv.)) + comparative suffix -ter (cf. other). Intransitive sense "to become otherwise" first recorded 1580s. Related: Altered; altering.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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