alternative history


: fiction that is based on history and that explores what might have happened if certain historical events, figures, etc., had been different
Kennedy surviving the assassination attempt is a popular event of alternative history, inspiring novels, stage plays and short stories.Mark Juddery, Sydney (Australia) Morning Herald, 14 Nov. 2004
The key to all alternative histories is the so-called point of divergence—the moment imagination takes over from reality, or at least recorded history.Cynthia Crossen, Charleston Gazette, 6 Feb. 2005

called also alternate history

: a history that is told from an unusual or unorthodox perspective
Most Scots are brought up on such stories of martial tradition. … But there is an alternative history, though one heard less often.Ewen Macaskill, Guardian, 16 Dec. 2004
… it is written as a chronology of curiosities that adds up to an alternative history of the world.Johan Jaaffar, New Straits Times, 19 July 2008
There is an alternative history of Dylan … that of an opportunist who stole from Guthrie, Dave Van Ronk, and everyone else with whom he came in contact, all in the pursuit of greater celebrity.Ed Siegal, Boston Globe, 18 Sept. 2005

Word History

First Known Use

1903, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of alternative history was in 1903

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Dictionary Entries Near alternative history

Cite this Entry

“Alternative history.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2024.

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