oth·​er·​wise | \ ˈə-t͟hər-ˌwīz How to pronounce otherwise (audio) \

Definition of otherwise

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: something or anything else : something to the contrary was ordered to testify and could not do otherwise



Definition of otherwise (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : in a different way or manner glossed over or otherwise handledPlayboy All shows begin at 8:00 unless otherwise noted.
2 : in different circumstances might otherwise have left The test helps identify problems that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.
3 : in other respects an otherwise flimsy farceCurrent Biography I didn't like the ending, but otherwise it was a very good book. The patient had a foot problem, but she was otherwise healthy.
4 : if not do what I tell you, otherwise you'll be sorry Tickets can be bought in advance at a discount; otherwise they can be purchased at the door for full price.
5 : not paired with an adjective, adverb, noun, or verb to indicate its contrary or to suggest an indefinite alternative people whose deeds, admirable or otherwise— John Fischeralmost thirty thousand women, Irish and otherwise— J. M. Burnshis opinion as to the success or otherwise of itAustralian Dictionary of Biography



Definition of otherwise (Entry 3 of 3)

: different if conditions were otherwise

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for otherwise

Synonyms: Adverb

differently, else, other (than)

Antonyms: Adverb


Visit the Thesaurus for More 

Examples of otherwise in a Sentence


All of the books had been burned or otherwise destroyed. The women talked in the living room while the men were otherwise occupied. Art allows us to express things that we would not be able to express otherwise. Something must be wrong; otherwise, he would have called. The test helps identify problems that might otherwise go unnoticed. One of the boys has a freckle on his cheek. Otherwise, the twins are nearly identical. I didn't like the ending, but otherwise it was a very good book.


If conditions were otherwise, I wouldn't be so worried.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb

This Energy-star certified model super user-friendly, counter-depth or otherwise. Betty Gold, Good Housekeeping, "7 Best Counter-Depth Refrigerators to Buy in 2019, Reviewed By Kitchen Appliance Experts," 27 Feb. 2019 Getty Images Getty Images The tongue-flashing was just a temporary pause in their otherwise sophisticated display, and the couple looked the picture of elegance and happiness two months after their lavish wedding celebrations. Lucy Wood, Marie Claire, "Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Got Their Tongues Out at the Oscars Vanity Fair Party," 25 Feb. 2019 Enter: fluoride, a mineral that can reverse tooth decay that would otherwise become a cavity, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Korin Miller, SELF, "Is It Actually Possible to Get Rid of Cavities Without Fillings?," 17 Oct. 2018 The solution: Make a neat bundle of what can otherwise quickly become a hot mess. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "7 Humidity-Proof Hair Ideas That Will Up Your Summer Beauty Game," 4 Aug. 2018 This may well turn out to be a victory for workers, exploited or otherwise, but perhaps not in the way progressives intend. Andy Puzder, WSJ, "How to Liberate Amazon Workers," 20 Feb. 2019 Some designers have taken the idea further by enlisting couples—real-life or otherwise—to model their clothes. Laird Borrelli-persson, Vogue, "When Designers Play Cupid: 18 of Our Favorite “Couple” Moments on the Runway," 14 Feb. 2019 For example, as the Washington Post noted, the Trump hotel might be receiving business that would otherwise have gone to the Washington Convention Center or a hotel in Maryland, both of which are subsidized by their state governments. Dylan Scott, Vox, "Why the government shutdown is good legal news for Trump," 27 Dec. 2018 The 14-inch Gram loses one of the USB-A ports, but otherwise, both share a headphone jack, microSD slot, a full-size HDMI output, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "LG officially announces its ultralight 17-inch Gram laptop," 12 Dec. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of otherwise


15th century, in the meaning defined above


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for otherwise

Pronoun, Adverb, and Adjective

Middle English, from Old English (on) ōthre wīsan in another manner

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about otherwise

Share otherwise

Statistics for otherwise

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for otherwise

The first known use of otherwise was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for otherwise



English Language Learners Definition of otherwise

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: in a different way or manner
: if something did not happen, was not true, etc.
: in all ways except the one mentioned



English Language Learners Definition of otherwise (Entry 2 of 2)

: not the same


oth·​er·​wise | \ ˈə-t͟hər-ˌwīz How to pronounce otherwise (audio) \

Kids Definition of otherwise

1 : in another way He never treated her otherwise than with respect.
2 : in different circumstances Thanks for driving; otherwise I couldn't go.
3 : in other ways Trucks aren't allowed, but it is an otherwise busy street.
4 : if not : or else “I always have to sing to myself for a while; otherwise I can't sleep …”— Astrid Lindgren, Pippi Longstocking

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on otherwise

What made you want to look up otherwise? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to corrupt or become corrupted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!