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90s Slang You Should Know


[awl-tur-nuh-tiv, al-] /ɔlˈtɜr nə tɪv, æl-/
a choice limited to one of two or more possibilities, as of things, propositions, or courses of action, the selection of which precludes any other possibility:
You have the alternative of riding or walking.
one of the things, propositions, or courses of action that can be chosen:
The alternative to riding is walking.
a possible or remaining course or choice:
There was no alternative but to walk.
affording a choice of two or more things, propositions, or courses of action.
(of two things, propositions, or courses) mutually exclusive so that if one is chosen the other must be rejected:
The alternative possibilities are neutrality and war.
employing or following nontraditional or unconventional ideas, methods, etc.; existing outside the establishment:
an alternative newspaper; alternative lifestyles.
Logic. (of a proposition) asserting two or more choices, at least one of which is true.
Also, alternate (for defs 1–4, 6).
Origin of alternative
First recorded in 1580-90; alternate + -ive
Related forms
alternatively, adverb
alternativeness, alternativity, noun
quasi-alternative, adjective
quasi-alternatively, adverb
Can be confused
alternate, alternative.
1. option, selection.
Synonym Study
1. See choice. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for alternatives
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • This left the local organisers both in London and the country with two alternatives.

    Human Nature In Politics Graham Wallas
  • The domain of alternatives constitutes the civilization of illiteracy.

  • If all these alternatives are lacking there is the electric flash lamp working with the dry battery.

    Practical Cinematography and Its Applications Frederick Arthur Ambrose Talbot
  • So it's no good, and all the alternatives just fa' to pieces.

    Simon J. Storer Clouston
  • He had done no more than to give the driver his directions; and now that he had arrived, he had the choice of two alternatives.

    The Place of Honeymoons Harold MacGrath
British Dictionary definitions for alternatives


a possibility of choice, esp between two things, courses of action, etc
either of such choices: we took the alternative of walking
presenting a choice, esp between two possibilities only
(of two things) mutually exclusive
denoting a lifestyle, culture, art form, etc, regarded by its adherents as preferable to that of contemporary society because it is less conventional, materialistic, or institutionalized, and, often, more in harmony with nature
(logic) another word for disjunctive (sense 3)
Derived Forms
alternatively, adverb
alternativeness, noun
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for alternatives



1580s, "offering one or the other of two," from Medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare (see alternate (v.)). Meaning "purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use" was current by 1970 (earliest reference is to the media); e.g. alternative energy (1975). Related: Alternatively.


1620s, in rhetoric, from Medieval Latin alternativus (see alternative (adj.)). Of courses of action, from 1814. Of objects, etc., "the other of two which may be chosen," by 1838.



1620s, in rhetoric, from Medieval Latin alternativus (see alternative (adj.)). Of courses of action, from 1814. Of objects, etc., "the other of two which may be chosen," by 1838.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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