Altar or Alter?

What Is the Difference between "Altar" and "Alter"?

homesitemapA-Z confused words altar or alter?
The Quick Answer


(noun) (1) "an area of religious worship"
  • The vicar stood by the altar.


(verb) (1) "to amend"
  • Can you alter this shirt please?
"Altar" and "alter" are easy to confuse because they sound so similar. However, their meanings are quite different. An "altar" is an area of religious worship, and to "alter" means to change something. For example:
  • The worshippers placed tins of food and fruit around the church altar. correct tick
  • Turn this wheel to alter the ship's course. correct tick
altar or alter difference


The word "altar" is a noun. "An altar" is an area (usually a table) where religious worship or sacrifice occurs. Here are some example sentences with "altar":
  • The ancient Britons used to sacrifice animals on elaborate stone altars. correct tick
  • We were married at the altar in Saint Paul's Cathedral. correct tick
  • Have you seen the water damage to the alter in Saint John's Church? wrong cross
  • (This should be "altar.")


"To alter" is a verb meaning to change something. Here are some example sentences with "alter":
  • Will you alter this dress for Saturday's play? correct tick
  • Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months. correct tick (Playwright Oscar Wilde)
  • Please altar your claim in Section 9. wrong cross
  • (This should be "alter," i.e., to amend or change.)

Some Images for Altar and Alter

picture of a church altar

altar in church

picture of a sacrificial altar

eerie sacrificial altar

picture of two ladies sewing

ladies alter clothes

Common Terms with "Altar" and "Alter"

Common terms with the word "altar":
  • altar boys
  • come to the altar
  • family altar
  • lead to the altar
  • wedding altar
  • witch's altar
Common terms with the word "alter":
  • alter course
  • alter ego
  • alter the dress
  • alter the situation

Most Mistakes Occur with "Altar" not "Alter"

altar of the hand

People rarely use "altar" when they mean "alter." It is more common for people to use "alter" when they mean "altar." In its catalogue, one reputable website calls this piece "Alter of the Hand." wrong cross Oops.

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This page was written by Craig Shrives.

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