[ awl-tur-nuh-tiv, al- ]
See synonyms for alternative on
  1. 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.

  2. one of the things, propositions, or courses of action that can be chosen: The alternative to riding is walking.

  1. a possible or remaining course or choice: There was no alternative but to walk.

  1. affording a choice of two or more things, propositions, or courses of action.

  2. (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.

  1. employing or following nontraditional or unconventional ideas, methods, etc.; existing outside the establishment: an alternative newspaper; alternative lifestyles.

  2. Logic. (of a proposition) asserting two or more choices, at least one of which is true.

Origin of alternative

First recorded in 1580–90; alternate + -ive

synonym study For alternative

1. See choice.

Other words for alternative

Other words from alternative

  • al·ter·na·tive·ly, adverb
  • al·ter·na·tive·ness, al·ter·na·tiv·i·ty [awl-tur-nuh-tiv-i-tee, al-], /ɔlˌtɜr nəˈtɪv ɪ ti, æl-/, noun
  • qua·si-al·ter·na·tive, adjective

Words that may be confused with alternative Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

British Dictionary definitions for alternative


/ (ɔːlˈtɜːnətɪv) /

  1. a possibility of choice, esp between two things, courses of action, etc

  2. either of such choices: we took the alternative of walking

  1. presenting a choice, esp between two possibilities only

  2. (of two things) mutually exclusive

  1. 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

  2. logic another word for disjunctive (def. 3)

Derived forms of alternative

  • 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