Alternative Definition and Meaning: What Does Alternative Mean?

Definition of Alternative


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

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


3. presenting a choice, esp between two possibilities only

4. (of two things) mutually exclusive

5. 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

6. logic another word for disjunctive

alternative [ɔːlˈtɜːnətɪv] alternatively adv. alternativeness noun.


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

3. (Sociology) 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. (Philosophy / Logic) Logic another word for disjunctive

al·ter·na·tive (ôl-tûrn-tv, l-)



a. The choice between two mutually exclusive possibilities.

b. A situation presenting such a choice.

c. Either of these possibilities.

2. Usage Problem One of a number of things from which one must be chosen.


1. Allowing or necessitating a choice between two or more things.


a. Existing outside traditional or established institutions or systems: an alternative lifestyle.

b. Espousing or reflecting values that are different from those of the establishment or mainstream: an alternative newspaper; alternative greeting cards.

3. Usage Problem Substitute or different; other.

Usage Note of Alternative

Some traditionalists hold that alternative should be used only in situations where the number of choices involved is exactly two, because of the word's historical relation to Latin alter, "the other of two." Despite the word's longstanding use to mean "one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen" and the acceptance of this usage by many language critics, a substantial portion of the Usage Panel adheres to the traditional view, with only 49 percent accepting the sentence Of the three alternatives, the first is the least distasteful.

Alternative is also sometimes used to refer to a variant or substitute in cases where there is no element of choice involved, as in We will do our best to secure alternative employment for employees displaced by the closing of the factory. This sentence is unacceptable to 60 percent of the Usage Panel.

Alternative should not be confused with alternate. Correct usage requires The class will meet on alternate (not alternative) Tuesdays.

What Does Alternative Mean?


alternative - one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen; "what option did I have?"; "there no other alternative"; "my only choice is to refuse"

option, choice

deciding, decision making - the cognitive process of reaching a decision; "a good executive must be good at decision making"

obverse - the more conspicuous of two alternatives or cases or sides; "the obverse of this issue"

druthers, preference - the right or chance to choose; "given my druthers, I'd eat cake"

default option, default - an option that is selected automatically unless an alternative is specified

possible action, possibility, opening - a possible alternative; "bankruptcy is always a possibility"

impossible action, impossibility - an alternative that is not available

Hobson's choice - the choice of taking what is offered or nothing at all

soft option - an easier alternative; "the instructor took the soft option and gave the boy a passing grade"


1. alternative - serving or used in place of another; "an alternative plan"

alternate, substitute

secondary - being of second rank or importance or value; not direct or immediate; "the stone will be hauled to a secondary crusher"; "a secondary source"; "a secondary issue"; "secondary streams"

2. alternative - necessitating a choice between mutually exclusive possibilities; "alternative possibilities were neutrality or war"

disjunctive - serving or tending to divide or separate

3. alternative - pertaining to unconventional choices; "an alternative life style"

unconventional - not conventional or conformist; "unconventional life styles"

Alternative Meaning


1. substitute, choice, other (of two), option, preference, recourse New treatments may provide an alternative to painkillers.


2. different, other, substitute, alternate There were alternative methods of transport available.

3. unconventional, unusual, alternate (U.S.), abnormal, irregular, off-the-wall (slang), unorthodox, heterodox, uncustomary Grunge percolated in the alternative music scene of Seattle.

4. substitute, other, different, replacement, alternate, complementary, non-standard alternative healthcare



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.



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


(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.


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


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

What is Alternative?

verb (used without object)

  1. to interchange repeatedly and regularly with one another in time or place; rotate (usually followed by with): Day alternates with night.

  2. to change back and forth between conditions, states, actions, etc.: He alternates between hope and despair.

  3. to take turns: My sister and I alternated in doing the dishes.

  4. Electricity. to reverse direction or sign periodically.

  5. Linguistics. to occur as a variant in alternation with another form.


  • 1. [attributive] (of one or more things) available as another possibility or choice: the various alternative methods for resolving disputes

  • (of two things) mutually exclusive: the facts fit two alternative scenarios

  • 2. of or relating to activities that depart from or challenge traditional norms: an alternative lifestyle


  • one of two or more available possibilities: audio cassettes are an interesting alternative to reading; she had no alternative but to skip the lunch


mid 16th century (in the sense 'alternating, alternate'): from French alternatif, -ive or medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternare 'interchange' (see alternate)

Some traditionalists maintain that you can only have a maximum of two alternatives, because the word alternative comes from Latin alter ‘other (of two)’ and that uses where there are more than two alternatives are wrong. Such uses are, however, normal in modern standard English. See also alternate (usage)

First Known Use of ALTERNATIVE


Alternative Usage Note

Option, choice, alternative, possibility...

These are all words for something that you choose to do in a particular situation.

- Option something that you can choose to have or do; the freedom to choose what you do: As I see it, we have two options… ◇ Students have the option of studying abroad in their second year. Option is also the word used in computing for one of the choices you can make when using a computer program: Choose the ‘Cut’ option from the Edit menu.

- Choice the freedom to choose what you do; something that you can choose to have or do: If I had the choice, I would stop working tomorrow.There is a wide range of choices open to you.

- Alternative something that you can choose to have or do out of two or more possibilities: You can be paid in cash weekly or by cheque monthly: those are the two alternatives.

Option, choice, possibility or alternative?

- Choice is slightly less formal than option and alternative is slightly more formal. Choice is most often used for ‘the freedom to choose’, although you can sometimes also use option (but not usually alternative): If I had the choice/option, I would…If I had the alternative, I would…parental choice in educationparental option/alternative in education.

Things that you can choose are options, choices or alternatives. However, alternative is more frequently used to talk about choosing between two things rather than several. Possibility one of the different things that you can do in a particular situation: We need to explore a wide range of possibilities.The possibilities are endless.

- Possibility can be used in a similar way to option, choice and alternative, but the emphasis here is less on the need to make a choice, and more on what is available.

With/without the option/choice/possibility of something a(n) good/acceptable/reasonable/possible option/choice/alternative the only option/choice/alternative/possibility open to somebody to have a/an/the option/choice of doing something to have no option/choice/alternative but to do something a number/range of options/choices/alternatives/possibilities

Alternative Sentence Examples

  • We will contact you at the earliest opportunity to suggest an alternative or refund.

  • Up until now, there has been no viable alternative.

  • Alternative route would be to have a company pension scheme owning the property.

  • The prizes cannot be modified and there are no cash alternatives.

  • Online agencies offer a cheap alternative, charging £ 49 to £ 400 to advertize a home directly on a website.

  • A cheaper alternative is to buy just the Symbol PDT-3100 on a CD from Crick Software at a cost of £ 90.

  • Alternative arrangements.

  • Free Space Optics offer gigabit alternatives for distribution around cities.

  • So many drugs the doctor can give you can have harmful side effects considering a natural alternative is often a better and popular option.

  • Nexia provides a credible alternative to the "big 4" firms, rendering services to clients on a more personal and focused basis.

  • Alternative therapy.

  • Tresco provides a very special alternative to the famous London marathon.

  • The campaign should also take up a class position and put forward a planned economy and a socialist alternative.

  • Alternative medicine was symptomatic of what happened in many areas of society at the same moment.

  • She declared herself to be opposed to the government's economic policies without proposing any real alternative.

  • A notebook's portability makes it an attractive alternative to desktops: you can work where and when you need to.

  • Alternative method of going public is to merge with a company that is already public.

  • This timeless town with an interesting old cathedral offers a genteel option for those seeking a quieter alternative to the larger resorts.

  • DVD is the only realistic alternative to VHS that is widely acceptable to the industry.

  • Alternative approaches do exist, particularly in human health.
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