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alternative

[awl-tur-nuh-tiv, al-]
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noun
  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.
  3. a possible or remaining course or choice: There was no alternative but to walk.
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adjective
  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.
  3. employing or following nontraditional or unconventional ideas, methods, etc.; existing outside the establishment: an alternative newspaper; alternative lifestyles.
  4. Logic. (of a proposition) asserting two or more choices, at least one of which is true.
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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

See more synonyms for alternative on Thesaurus.com
1. option, selection.

Synonym study

1. See choice.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for alternatives

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • Of these alternatives only the second can, in reality, be correct.

    Freeland

    Theodor Hertzka

  • And the more so as he computed the alternatives of victory or death.

    Hellenica

    Xenophon

  • You make the alternatives certain ruin and possible salvation.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • She ought to have the facts, and be allowed to face the alternatives before it is too late.

    The Dominant Strain

    Anna Chapin Ray

  • Such are the terms he offers; such are the alternatives his kindness suggests.

    The O'Donoghue

    Charles James Lever


British Dictionary definitions for alternatives

alternative

noun
  1. a possibility of choice, esp between two things, courses of action, etc
  2. either of such choiceswe took the alternative of walking
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adjective
  1. presenting a choice, esp between two possibilities only
  2. (of two things) mutually exclusive
  3. 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
  4. logic another word for disjunctive (def. 3)
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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 alternatives

alternative

adj.

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.

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alternative

n.

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.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper