Altar and Alter

by Craig Shrives
The Quick Answer
What is the difference between altar and alter?

An altar is an area of religious worship.
Alter means to change something.
altar or alter difference

Altar or Alter?

Occasionally, there is confusion over the words altar and alter.

Click on the Two Correct Sentences
(Interactive Game)

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The word altar is a noun. An altar is an area (usually a table) where religious worship or sacrifice occurs.

  • The ancient Britons used to sacrifice animals on elaborate stone altars.
  • We were married at the altar in St Paul's Cathedral.
  • Have you seen the water damage to the alter in St. John's Church?
  • (should be altar)


To alter is a verb meaning to change something.

  • Will you alter this dress for Saturday's play?
  • Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
  • Please altar your claim in Section 9. 
  • (should be alter, i.e., to amend or change)

Some Images for Altar and Alter

altar in church

eerie sacrificial altar

ladies alter clothes

Common Terms with "Altar" and "Alter"

Common terms with the word "altar":
  • altar boys
  • lead to the altar
  • family altar
Common terms with the word "alter":
  • alter ego
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? tenant or tenet? who's or whose?
Glossary of easily confused words Glossary of common errors Glossary of grammatical terms What are nouns? What are verbs?