Altar vs Alter

The words altar and alter often confuse students because they are homophones.These words have the same pronunciation even though they are different parts of speech. Altar (with an A) is a noun. Alter (with an E) is a verb.

Altar and alter  are spelled differently

Altar and alter share the same pronunciation /ˈɔːltə(r)/, but they have different spellings.
A-L-T-A-R spells altar
A-L-T-E-R spells alter.


The noun altar means a holy table or surface in a religious building. The main altar in a church is called the high altar.
  • He approached the altar and placed the candle on it.
  • They kneeled at the altar and prayed.
  • The altar cloths must be changed regularly.

The word altar also is the part of the following idiom.

on the altar of

Meaning: in order to achieve something
  • Do not sacrifice your happiness on the altar of your greed.


The verb alter means to change something.
  • I almost didn’t recognize him - he’d altered so much.
  • Moving to the country has altered our lifestyle.
  • Nothing can alter the fact that your acts are illegal.
  • My hometown has altered beyond all recognition.

As an adjective, alter can be the part of the following phrase

alter ego

Meaning: the other side of someone’s personality
  • Batman’s alter ego is Bruce Wayne.

Altar vs Alter