Definition of alternative noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



BrE BrE//ɔːlˈtɜːnətɪv//
; NAmE NAmE//ɔːlˈtɜːrnətɪv//
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 a thing that you can choose to do or have out of two or more possibilities We can agree to their terms or else pull out of the deal completely: those are the two alternatives. We had no alternative but to fire Gibson. There is a vegetarian alternative on the menu every day. Synonymsoptionchoice alternative possibilityThese 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 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 education parental 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.Patterns 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 Word Originmid 16th cent. (in the sense ‘alternating, alternate’): from French alternatif, -ive or medieval Latin alternativus, from Latin alternare ‘interchange’, from alternus ‘every other’, from alter ‘other’.Extra examples He was left with no alternative but to hobble to the nearest telephone box. His idea seemed to offer a possible alternative. Is there a viable alternative to prison? Is there an alternative to surgery for this complaint? She had no alternative but to do as he said. There is no alternative for those with no car of their own. They are seeking alternatives to fossil fuels. We have two alternatives. We’ll have to find an alternative. a healthier alternative to fizzy drinks a healthier alternative to fried chicken seeking alternatives to nuclear power This left us with two alternatives… You can be paid in cash weekly or by cheque monthly: those are the two alternatives.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: alternative