Definition of alternative in English:


Syllabification: al·ter·na·tive
Pronunciation: /ôlˈtərnətiv


  • 1(Of one or more things) available as another possibility: the various alternative methods for resolving disputes the alternative definition of democracy as popular power
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    • Can you talk about how and why it was humanism that triumphed over alternative possibilities?
    • In recent years several sites have been examined as a possible alternative home for the Abbey.
    • It is perfectly possible that an alternative government would overturn a hunting ban.
    different, other, another, second, possible, substitute, replacement, alternate; standby, emergency, reserve, backup, auxiliary, fallback
  • 1.1(Of two things) mutually exclusive: the facts fit two alternative scenarios
    More example sentences
    • The book answers all these questions by analogy, with instances from the alternative America of the novel.
    • The alternative scenario is not one that City fans will want to think too much about.
    • The only legal alternative, a fresh set of elections, would solve nothing.
  • 1.2Of or relating to behavior that is considered unconventional and is often seen as a challenge to traditional norms: an alternative lifestyle they have one foot in alternative music and the other in rock
    More example sentences
    • Look at some of the most experimental alternative music going around at the moment.
    • Both traditional doctors and alternative therapists work to the best of their ability in any given situation.
    • Bizarrely, it completely omits any reference to alternative lifestyles or kinks of any kind.
    unorthodox, unconventional, nonstandard, unusual, uncommon, out of the ordinary, radical, revolutionary, nonconformist, avant-garde


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  • One of two or more available possibilities: audiocassettes are an interesting alternative to reading she had no alternative but to break the law
    More example sentences
    • It assumes that citizens are rational and aware of all possible alternatives.
    • The evening that it started, the local news ran a story on possible alternatives to driving.
    • There is no excuse for wearing real fur with so many humane alternatives now available.
    option, choice, other possibility; substitute, replacement


mid 16th century (in the sense 'alternating, alternate'): from French alternatif, -ive or medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternare 'interchange' (see alternate).


1 Alternate can be a verb, noun, or adjective, while alternative can be a noun or adjective. In both American and British English, the adjective alternate means ‘every other’ ( there will be a dance on alternate Saturdays ) and the adjective alternative means ‘available as another choice’ ( an alternative route ; alternative medicine; alternative energy sources ). In American usage, however, alternate can also be used to mean ‘available as another choice’: an alternate plan called for construction to begin immediately rather than waiting for spring . Likewise, a book club may offer an ‘alternate selection’ as an alternative to the main selection. 2 Some traditionalists maintain, from an etymological standpoint, that you can have only two alternatives (from the Latin alter ‘other (of two); the other’) and that uses of more than two alternatives are erroneous. Such uses are, however, normal in modern standard English.

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