Oscillation is the process of moving back and forth regularly, like the oscillation of a fan that cools off the whole room, or the oscillation of a movie plot that makes you laugh and cry.

Oscillation is from the Latin word oscillare for "to swing," so oscillation is when something is swinging back and forth. Rumor has it if you trace the word back far enough, you get to the word for “a little face” of Bacchus, Greek god of wine, people used to hang up in vineyards to swing in the breeze. When there's oscillation, something is going back and forth, like a hanging sculpture going to and fro in the backyard.

Definitions of oscillation
  1. noun
    a single complete execution of a periodically repeated phenomenon
    synonyms: cycle
    see moresee less
    show 4 types...
    hide 4 types...
    cardiac cycle
    the complete cycle of events in the heart from the beginning of one heart beat to the beginning of the next; an electrical impulse conducted through the heart muscle that constricts the atria which is followed by constriction of the ventricles
    Carnot cycle, Carnot's ideal cycle
    a cycle (of expansion and compression) of an idealized reversible heat engine that does work without loss of heat
    one complete cycle of operations (as by a computer)
    menstrual cycle
    a recurring cycle (beginning at menarche and ending at menopause) in which the endometrial lining of the uterus prepares for pregnancy; if pregnancy does not occur the lining is shed at menstruation
    type of:
    periodic event, recurrent event
    an event that recurs at intervals
  2. noun
    the process of oscillating between states
    see moresee less
    (astronomy) a real or apparent slow oscillation of a moon or satellite
    type of:
    action, activity, natural action, natural process
    a process existing in or produced by nature (rather than by the intent of human beings)
  3. noun
    (physics) a regular periodic variation in value about a mean
    synonyms: vibration
    see moresee less
    show 5 types...
    hide 5 types...
    (electronics) an oscillation of small amplitude imposed on top of a steady value
    (physics) a short-lived oscillation in a system caused by a sudden change of voltage or current or load
    a single pulsation of an oscillation produced by adding two waves of different frequencies; has a frequency equal to the difference between the two oscillations
    a vibration of large amplitude produced by a relatively small vibration near the same frequency of vibration as the natural frequency of the resonating system
    sympathetic vibration
    (physics) vibration produced by resonance
    type of:
    undulation, wave
    (physics) a movement up and down or back and forth
DISCLAIMER: These example sentences appear in various news sources and books to reflect the usage of the word ‘oscillation'. Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of or its editors. Send us feedback
Word Family

Look up oscillation for the last time

Close your vocabulary gaps with personalized learning that focuses on teaching the words you need to know.

VocabTrainer -'s Vocabulary Trainer