Definition of alternative in English:

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Pronunciation: /ɔːlˈtəːnətɪv/
Pronunciation: /ɒlˈtəːnətɪv/


1 [attributive] (Of one or more things) available as another possibility or choice: the various alternative methods for resolving disputes
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;
deputy, relief, proxy, surrogate, cover, fill-in, stand-in;
standby, emergency, reserve, backup, auxiliary, fallback;
North American  alternate
North American informal pinch-hitting
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.
2Relating to activities that depart from or challenge traditional norms: an alternative lifestyle
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, non-standard, unusual, uncommon, unwonted, out of the ordinary, radical, revolutionary, nonconformist, unconforming, irregular, offbeat, off-centre, avant-garde;
original, new, novel, fresh;
eccentric, exotic, Bohemian, idiosyncratic, abnormal, extreme, divergent, aberrant, anomalous, bizarre, outlandish, perverse
informal off the wall, oddball, way-out, cranky, zany
rare heteroclite


One of two or more available possibilities: audio cassettes 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, proxy, reserve, surrogate, stand-in;
possible course of action, resort, way out


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).


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

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: al¦ter|na¦tive

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