os·cil·late (ŏs’ə-lāt′)
intr.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 waver, as between conflicting opinions or courses of action; vacillate: »

"The court has oscillated over the decades from more liberal to less, more conservative to less, depending upon who was president at the time of vacancies"

(Gordon J. Humphrey). See Synonyms at SWING(Cf. ↑swing). 3) Physics To vary between alternate extremes, usually within a definable period of time.
[Latin ōscillāre, ōscillāt-, from ōscillum, something that swings back and forth, swing, probably from ōscillum, small mask of Bacchus, diminutive of ōs, mouth; see ōs-.]
os’cil·la′tor n. os’cil·la·to′ry (-lə-tôr′ē) adj.
Word History: The history of the word oscillate shows how English words referring to technical or scientific concepts often come from Latin words describing everyday objects and ordinary life in ancient times. In a passage in his Georgics, a long poem celebrating rural life, the Roman poet Virgil describes how Bacchus is honored in the countryside by hanging small masks from pine trees. He uses the Latin word ōscillum (plural ōscilla) to refer to these hanging religious decorations, which were common in the ancient Roman world. The house of a wealthy Roman family was usually built around one or more courtyards or gardens enclosed by rows of columns, and in each space between these columns, an ōscillum was often hung. It is probable that this word ōscillum, "something that swings back and forth," is simply an extended use of the word ōscillum meaning "a small mouth, a small face" (a diminutive of ōs, "mouth"), since the swinging objects most often consisted of masks or tondi depicting faces. From the word ōscillum, "something that swings back and forth," the Romans derived the verb ōscillāre, "to ride in a swing," and the noun ōscillātiō, "the action of swinging." These are the sources of English oscillate and oscillation, words that entered English during the 1600s and 1700s as technical terms mainly used in scientific writings and similar works.

Word Histories. 2014.


Look at other dictionaries:

  • Oscillatory — means having periodic vibrations and may refer to:*Exhibiting the behavior of oscillation *Oscillatory Universe *Oscillatory integral …   Wikipedia

  • Oscillatory — Os cil*la*to*ry, a. [Cf. F. oscillatoire. See {Oscillate}.] Moving, or characterized by motion, backward and forward like a pendulum; swinging; oscillating; vibratory; as, oscillatory motion. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • oscillatory — oscillate ► VERB 1) move or swing back and forth at a regular rate. 2) waver between extremes of opinion or emotion. DERIVATIVES oscillation noun oscillator noun oscillatory adjective. ORIGIN Latin oscillare to swing …   English terms dictionary

  • oscillatory — adjective see oscillate …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • oscillatory — /os euh leuh tawr ee, tohr ee/, adj. characterized by or involving oscillation. [1730 40; < NL oscillatorius, equiv. to L oscilla(re) to swing (see OSCILLATE) + torius TORY1] * * * …   Universalium

  • oscillatory — adjective a) that oscillates; oscillating b) capable of sustaining oscillations …   Wiktionary

  • oscillatory — Synonyms and related words: alternate, beating, circling, cyclic, epochal, even, every other, fluctuant, fluctuating, fluctuational, harmonic, intermittent, isochronal, libratory, measured, metronomic, nutational, oscillating, pendular,… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • oscillatory — os·cil·la·to·ry || É‘sɪleɪtÉ™rɪ / É’s adj. characterized by oscillation; fluctuating; variable; indecisive, wavering between opinions …   English contemporary dictionary

  • oscillatory — a. Vibratory, swinging, oscillating, vibrating, oscillative …   New dictionary of synonyms

  • oscillatory — os·cil·la·to·ry …   English syllables

  • oscillatory — /ˈɒsəleɪtəri/ (say osuhlaytuhree), / lətri/ (say luhtree) adjective characterised by or involving oscillation. {New Latin oscillātōrius} …   Australian English dictionary

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.