Definition of alternative in English:

Share this entry


Pronunciation: /ôlˈtərnədiv/


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
More example sentences
  • 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.
1.2Relating 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
informal off the wall, oddball, offbeat, way-out


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


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.


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

Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.