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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.
Contemporary Examples

You bet, but it would also allow them to offer an alternative to dramas and American Idol in January.
NBC, You’ve Blown It Again! Jace Lacob October 25, 2010

For now the first alternative seems bizarrely risky; the second has a very strong element of inertia behind it.
Palestine Can Wait…For Now Nathan J. Brown July 19, 2012

Should our justice system be causing so much harm to so many people when there is an alternative?
The Murder of Troy Davis Mansfield Frazier September 21, 2011

For those voters, Cain serves as a holding platform until they find a viable Romney alternative.
Perry Can Still Win Matt Latimer October 19, 2011

One of those is alternative energy, on which the story gets even weirder.
Republicans Against the Pentagon Michael Tomasky May 23, 2012

Historical Examples

She arose as she said this, so Carter had no other alternative than to follow her into the royal presence.
Trusia Davis Brinton

In the absence of overtures there was no alternative but to march on Paris.
Camps, Quarters and Casual Places Archibald Forbes

I really shrank from doing so, but there seemed no alternative.
Uncanny Tales Mary Louisa Molesworth

An acceptance so direct left Clarence no alternative: his fate was decided.
Tales And Novels, Volume 3 (of 10) Maria Edgeworth

There was no alternative for Mercy but to own the truth in plain words.
The New Magdalen Wilkie Collins

a possibility of choice, esp between two things, courses of action, etc
either of such choices: we took the alternative of walking
presenting a choice, esp between two possibilities only
(of two things) mutually exclusive
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
(logic) another word for disjunctive (sense 3)

1580s, “offering one or the other of two,” from Medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternatus, past participle of alternare (see alternate (v.)). Meaning “purporting to be a superior choice to what is in general use” was current by 1970 (earliest reference is to the media); e.g. alternative energy (1975). Related: Alternatively.

1620s, in rhetoric, from Medieval Latin alternativus (see alternative (adj.)). Of courses of action, from 1814. Of objects, etc., “the other of two which may be chosen,” by 1838.


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