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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.
Origin of oscillate
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. 2015.
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Examples from the web for oscillate
  • Phase-change materials store or release heat as they oscillate between solid and liquid form.
  • They are no doubt interested in how many neutrinos oscillate and how often.
  • The grains should twist them, changing the direction in which they oscillate so that they arrive with the same polarization.
  • They don't have fans to disperse the warmth, but some models oscillate.
  • Light consists of electromagnetic waves that oscillate perpendicular to the direction of the light's travel.
  • As the months go on, emotions oscillate and voter preferences do, too.
  • Markets will always oscillate for reasons clear to anyone schooled in feedback control theory.
  • The paintings constantly oscillate between wholeness and fragmentation.
  • Large-scale electricity transmission usually uses alternating current, in which both current and voltage oscillate.
  • So our government hinges on the vicissitudes of the suburbs, which oscillate between the two tribes.
British Dictionary definitions for oscillate


(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 oscillate

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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oscillate 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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