See more synonyms for else on Thesaurus.com
  1. other than the persons or things mentioned or implied: What else could I have done?
  2. in addition to the persons or things mentioned or implied: Who else was there?
  3. other or in addition (used in the possessive following an indefinite pronoun): someone else's money.
  1. if not (usually preceded by or): It's a macaw, or else I don't know birds.
  2. in some other way; otherwise: How else could I have acted?
  3. at some other place or time: Where else might I find this book?
  1. or else, or suffer the consequences: Do what I say, or else.

Origin of else

before 1000; Middle English, Old English elles (cognate with Old High German elles), equivalent to ell- other (cognate with Gothic aljis, Latin alius, Old Irish aile Greek állos, Armenian ayl other; cf. eldritch) + -es -s1

Usage note

The possessive forms of somebody else, everybody else, etc., are somebody else's, everybody else's, the forms somebody's else, everybody's else being considered nonstandard in present-day English. One exception is the possessive for who else, which is occasionally formed as whose else when a noun does not immediately follow: Is this book yours? Whose else could it be? No, it's somebody else's.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for or else


determiner (postpositive; used after an indefinite pronoun or an interrogative)
  1. in addition; morethere is nobody else here
  2. other; differentwhere else could he be?
  1. or else
    1. if not, thengo away or else I won't finish my work today
    2. or something terrible will result: used as a threatsit down, or else!

Word Origin for else

Old English elles, genitive of el- strange, foreign; related to Old High German eli- other, Gothic alja, Latin alius, Greek allos
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 or else



Old English elles "other, otherwise, different," from Proto-Germanic *aljaz (cf. Gothic aljis "other," Old High German eli-lenti, Old English el-lende, both meaning "in a foreign land;" see also Alsace), an adverbial genitive of the neuter of PIE root *al- "beyond" (cf. Greek allos "other," Latin alius; see alias). Synonym of other, the nuances of usage are often arbitrary.

Productive of a number of handy compounds that somehow never got traction or have been suffered to fall from use: elsehow (1660s) "somehow or other;" elsewards (adv.), 1882, "somewhere else;" Old English elsewhat (pron.) " something else, anything else;" elsewhen (adv.), early 15c., "at another time; elsewhence (c.1600); elsewho (1540s). Among the survivors are elsewhere, elsewise.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with or else

or else


Otherwise, in different circumstances, as in Present your case now, or else you won't have a chance. [c. 1300]


Regardless of any extenuating circumstances, no matter what, as in Be there on time or else! [Second half of 1800s]


see in someone's (else's) shoes; or else; something else; something else again.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.