Definition of alternative in English:


Line breaks: al¦ter|na¦tive
Pronunciation: /ɔːlˈtəːnətɪv
, ɒl-/



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  • One of two or more available possibilities: audio cassettes are an interesting alternative to reading she had no alternative but to break the law
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    • 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, proxy, reserve, surrogate, stand-in; possible course of action, resort, way out


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


Some traditionalists maintain that you can only have a maximum of two alternatives, because the word alternative comes from Latin alter ‘other (of two)’) and that uses where there are more than two alternatives are wrong. Such uses are, however, normal in modern standard English. See also alternate (usage).

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