On a hot day, you’ll be happy to have a fan that can oscillate, meaning it moves back and forth in a steady motion.

The verb oscillate can be traced back to the Latin word oscillum, meaning "swing," so it makes sense that oscillate is used to describe an object like a fan or a pendulum that swings from side to side. The word also can be used to describe a different kind of motion — the wavering of someone who is going back and forth between conflicting beliefs or actions. If you’ve ever had trouble making up your mind about something, you probably know what it feels like to oscillate — back and forth from one decision and to another and then back again. And again. And again.

Definitions of oscillate
  1. verb
    move or swing from side to side regularly
    “the needle on the meter was oscillating
    synonyms: vibrate
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    oscillate about a desired speed, position, or state to an undesirable extent
    vibrate before coming to a total rest
    type of:
    sway, swing
    move or walk in a swinging or swaying manner
  2. verb
    be undecided about something; waver between conflicting positions or courses of action
    “He oscillates between accepting the new position and retirement”
    synonyms: hover, vacillate, vibrate
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    be uncertain and vague
    type of:
    hesitate, waffle, waver
    pause or hold back in uncertainty or unwillingness
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