al·​ter·​na·​tive | \ ȯl-ˈtər-nə-tiv How to pronounce alternative (audio) , al- \

Definition of alternative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : offering or expressing a choice several alternative plans
2 : different from the usual or conventional: such as
a : existing or functioning outside the established cultural, social, or economic system an alternative newspaper alternative lifestyles
b : of, relating to, or being rock music that is regarded as an alternative to conventional rock and is typically influenced by punk rock, hard rock, hip-hop, or folk music an alternative band also : of, relating to, or being music of a genre other than rock that is similarly regarded as an alternative to the conventional music of that genre alternative country
c : of or relating to alternative medicine alternative therapies
3 : occurring or succeeding by turns : alternate sense 1



Definition of alternative (Entry 2 of 2)

1a : a proposition or situation offering a choice between two or more things only one of which may be chosen a government facing the alternative of high taxes or poor highways
b : an opportunity for deciding between two or more courses or propositions the alternative of going by train or by plane
2a : one of two or more things, courses, or propositions to be chosen The menu offered several vegetarian alternatives.
b : something which can be chosen instead The only alternative to intervention.
3 : alternative rock music a fan of alternative

Other Words from alternative


alternatively adverb
alternativeness noun

Synonyms for alternative

Synonyms: Noun

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Choose the Right Synonym for alternative


choice, option, alternative, preference, selection, election mean the act or opportunity of choosing or the thing chosen. choice suggests the opportunity or privilege of choosing freely. freedom of choice option implies a power to choose that is specifically granted or guaranteed. the option of paying now or later alternative implies a need to choose one and reject another possibility. equally attractive alternatives preference suggests a choice guided by one's judgment or predilections. a preference for cool weather selection implies a range of choice. a varied selection of furniture election implies an end or purpose which requires exercise of judgment. doing a tax return forces certain elections on you

Examples of alternative in a Sentence

Adjective Scientists are developing an alternative approach to treating the disease. He developed an alternative design for the new engine. Noun We decided to leave since our only other alternative was to wait in the rain. I was offered no alternative. The menu offered several vegetarian alternatives.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Wender-Shubow said the School Committee would not consider several alternative proposals that would allocate adjusted raises over a six-year period, though the committee has argued that the union’s requests raise budgetary issues. Andrew Brinker,, 15 May 2022 The plan includes more summer school offerings for high school students, more intervention sections, alternative math courses to complete the A-G requirements, and more tutoring resources for students. Laura Groch, San Diego Union-Tribune, 15 May 2022 As a result, DeWine said in 2020 that there would be no more executions in Ohio unless state lawmakers pick an alternative execution method -- a step the legislature has so far shown no interest in taking. Jeremy Pelzer, cleveland, 13 May 2022 French officials are urgently exploring alternative accommodations, including the possibility of relocating the refugees to a different boat, after the Méditerranée resumes its normal operations in June. Rick Noack And Sandra Mehl, Anchorage Daily News, 13 May 2022 But with record-high inflation threatening even that safe haven, some older adults are eyeing alternative assets, including cryptocurrencies. Nate Dicamillo, Quartz, 13 May 2022 Her challengers are instead pushing for more alternative justice programs and less reliance on law enforcement. Keith L. Alexander, Washington Post, 13 May 2022 Lincoln said the willingness to forget is evident when COVID-19 is left out of contemporary TV shows and movies that were made since 2020, like the pandemic never existed in those alternative universes. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 12 May 2022 That’s an important distinction for Anhedönia to make — most people know her as Ethel Cain, the dark, brooding, God-fearing alternative artist taking the industry by storm. Stephen Daw, Billboard, 12 May 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun As a lighter, better-for-you alternative to puff pastry or other pie doughs, this recipe, also from Ellie Krieger, features phyllo dough, which results in a shatteringly crisp, flaky exterior. Aaron Hutcherson, Washington Post, 16 May 2022 George believes that, because of the water issues, there’s no alternative to fallowing large amounts of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley. David Owen, The New Yorker, 11 May 2022 Starbucks charges roughly 70 cents extra for a dairy alternative, which includes soy, coconut, almond and oat milks, depending on the US city. Jordan Valinsky, CNN, 11 May 2022 Bolt pitched a decentralized alternative: one-click checkout software that could plug into the existing payments platform of any business. New York Times, 10 May 2022 There’s just no readily available alternative to Russian energy imports for major countries that oppose the war, primarily Germany. Tristan Bove, Fortune, 7 May 2022 Starring Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux and Kristen Stewart, here’s a healthy (if disturbing) alternative to the blockbuster fare. Ben Flanagan |, al, 6 May 2022 However, there’s an alternative if Warner either decides not to recast the role, or only wants to recast long enough to once again change course. Mark Hughes, Forbes, 5 May 2022 So, what’s the better alternative to Conley and O’Neale? Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 26 Apr. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alternative.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of alternative


1540, in the meaning defined at sense 3


1576, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for alternative


borrowed from Middle French & Medieval Latin; Middle French alternatif "occurring by turns, alternating," borrowed from Medieval Latin alternātīvus, from Latin alternātus, past participle of alternāre "to ebb and flow, act in alternation, arrange in alternating order" + -īvus -ive — more at alternate entry 1


borrowed from French & Medieval Latin; French alternative, going back to Middle French, borrowed from Medieval Latin alternātīva, noun derivative from feminine of alternātīvus "occurring by turns" — more at alternative entry 1

Learn More About alternative

Time Traveler for alternative

Time Traveler

The first known use of alternative was in 1540

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Dictionary Entries Near alternative

alternation of generations


alternative cost

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Statistics for alternative

Last Updated

18 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Alternative.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for alternative


al·​ter·​na·​tive | \ ȯl-ˈtər-nə-tiv How to pronounce alternative (audio) \

Kids Definition of alternative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: offering or expressing a choice alternative plans

Other Words from alternative

alternatively adverb I'll drive or, alternatively, we could walk.



Kids Definition of alternative (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a chance to choose between two things We had to move. There was no alternative.
2 : one of the things between which a choice is to be made As it got dark, our best alternative was to find shelter.


al·​ter·​na·​tive | \ ȯl-ˈtər-nət-iv, al- How to pronounce alternative (audio) \

Medical Definition of alternative

: of, relating to, or based on alternative medicine alternative therapies


al·​ter·​na·​tive | \ ȯl-ˈtər-nə-tiv, al- How to pronounce alternative (audio) \

Legal Definition of alternative

 (Entry 1 of 2)

2 : offering or expressing a choice an alternative contract — see also alternative pleading at pleading sense 1b
3 : existing or functioning outside the established system also : different from the usual or conventional alternative sentencing



Legal Definition of alternative (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a proposition or situation offering a choice between two or more things only one of which may be chosen
2a : one of two or more things, courses, or propositions to be chosen
b : something which can be chosen instead
in the alternative
1 : for or as an alternative asked for specific performance, or in the alternative, damages of $20,000 a new trial may be asked for in the alternative
2 : in such a way that offers a choice the relief sought…may include relief in the alternativeFederal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 8(a) plead in the alternative

More from Merriam-Webster on alternative

Nglish: Translation of alternative for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of alternative for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about alternative


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