For example: 1-1-2-1-1-2-1-1-2 ( pattern of 1-1-2 repeated) and another pattern with more than 3 units and more complex and so forth.

I would normally call this: 1-2-1-2-1-2 an alternation between 1 and 2 (if you have other interesting ways to address it, please share).

Because I have to refer to '1-2-1-2-1-2' in one sentence and '1-1-2-1-1-2-1-1-2' in the next. I'm trying to use a word to connect the two, alternation in 2 and alternation in 3 for example, but that doesn't make sense.

  • 6
    I'd call it a cyclical pattern Aug 10, 2016 at 15:09
  • Are you looking for a word describing exactly three parts of just more than two?
    – Helmar
    Aug 10, 2016 at 15:20
  • i guess i'm curious to know both.
    – Beck
    Aug 10, 2016 at 15:27
  • 1
    If you really wanted to include the word alternation in your description of the pattern 1-1-2-1-1-2-1-1-2 then rather than saying it "repeats" the element 1-1-2, you could say it alternates between 1-1 and 2. Or indeed, between 1 and 1-2. Or forget alternation, and just say one sequence contains repeated pairs, whereas the other contains repeated triplets. Aug 10, 2016 at 15:45
  • 2
    cyclical, repeating, or periodic pattern, with period 3.
    – Drew
    Aug 10, 2016 at 17:24

1 Answer 1


I think the commonest way to describe movement through a cyclical pattern of more than 2 elements would be "rotation". Your example is a bit non-standard, because there are really only 2 elements, but the way in which they repeat is a triplet. Still, I think the word "rotation" would carry the right meaning. The pattern is a 3-step rotation among the elements 1-1-2.

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