Alter/Altar – what’s the difference?

I had the pleasure to review 7 draft WIP chapters over the last 2 weeks and three of them have altars in their novels.  All three of the authors, however, spelled the word ‘alter’, not ‘altar’, which led me to this post.

I guess I could have written this for my first A-Z post beginning April 1, but I already have one written for the letter ‘A’ so I guess I’ll try to help out here.  Whoo hoo!  🙂  Let’s go.  Just what you wanted, right?

First of all, let me say I’ve made this mistake myself.  Part of it comes from just typing fast and then skipping over it when editing.  (Hey, it’s my story, I’ll tell it like I want.)  Then there are times that I actually spelled it wrong.  (*hangs head in shame*)

Just so you don’t have to hang your head in shame like I did, here are the differences:

Altar is a noun.

I was fascinated by the crystal ball perched on the wizard’s altar.

Alter is a verb that means to change something.  You use this when you do something to a noun.

I have to alter the wizard’s gown.

Or, if you’re a silly construction worker, you could say:  I have to alter the altar.

Simple, right?  Take the test and find out.  The answers are at the end.

1.  She knelt at the _____ to pray.

a.  alter
b. altar

2.  _____ the lighting in the room to highlight the brightness of the diamond.

a.  alter
b.  altar

3.  You cannot stand at the ______ until you are ready.

a.  alter
b.  altar

4.  Have the seamstress _____ the hem.

a.  alter
b.  altar

Good luck and have fun!


1.  b
2.  a
3.  b
4.  a