[ 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.


Also alternate (for defs 1–4, 6).

Origin of alternative

First recorded in 1580–90; alternate + -ive

Related forms

al·ter·na·tive·ly, adverbal·ter·na·tive·ness, al·ter·na·tiv·i·ty, nounqua·si-al·ter·na·tive, adjectivequa·si-al·ter·na·tive·ly, adverb

Can be confused

alternate alternative

Synonym study

1. See choice. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for alternative

British Dictionary definitions for alternative


/ (ɔːlˈtɜːnətɪv) /


a possibility of choice, esp between two things, courses of action, etc
either of such choiceswe 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 (def. 3)

Derived Forms

alternatively, adverbalternativeness, 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