[awl-tur-nuh-tiv, al-]


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 formsal·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 confusedalternate alternative

Synonyms for alternative

Synonym study

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

Related Words for alternatively

willingly, sooner, rather, first, alternately, alternatively

Examples from the Web for alternatively

Contemporary Examples of alternatively

Historical Examples of alternatively

  • Alternatively, the draw SDRs and convert them to the aforementioned "hard" currencies.

    After the Rain

    Sam Vaknin

  • The piers of the Nave are alternatively circular and octagonal.

  • Alternatively, we should have to pronounce this whole surplus unsaleable.

  • Alternatively the gods lift the earth out of the primeval waters.

  • The new commodity and its purchase price are in reality symbols for alternatively possible systems of life and action.

    Creative Intelligence

    John Dewey, Addison W. Moore, Harold Chapman Brown, George H. Mead, Boyd H. Bode, Henry Waldgrave, Stuart James, Hayden Tufts, Horace M. Kallen

British Dictionary definitions for alternatively



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 Formsalternatively, 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

Word Origin and History for alternatively



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper