Meaning of “alternative” in the English Dictionary

"alternative" in British English

See all translations

alternativeadjective

uk /ɒlˈtɜː.nə.tɪv/ us /ɑːlˈtɝː.nə.t̬ɪv/

B2 US also alternate An alternative plan or method is one that you can use if you do not want to use another one:

The opposition parties have so far failed to set out an alternative strategy.
An alternative venue for the concert is being sought.

B2 Alternative things are considered to be unusual and often have a small but enthusiastic group of people who support them:

alternative comedy

More examples

  • High vehicles must take an alternative route because of low clearance under the bridge.
  • Government funding of alternative healthcare is virtually non-existent.
  • Despite all the advances in modern medicine, demand for alternative therapies and faith healing keeps growing.
  • In Los Angeles many companies encourage their employees to use alternative means of transportation, rather than the car.
  • Doctors these days tend to be more open-minded about alternative medicine.

alternativenoun [ C ]

uk /ɒlˈtɜː.nə.tɪv/ us /ɑːlˈtɝː.nə.t̬ɪv/

B2 something that is different from something else, especially from what is usual, and offering the possibility of choice:

an alternative to coffee
There must be an alternative to people sleeping on the streets.
I'm afraid I have no alternative but to ask you to leave (= that is what I have to do).

More examples

  • Carob is sometimes used in sweet foods as a healthier alternative to chocolate.
  • Solar power is now a viable alternative to oil-fired water heaters.
  • The alternative is to tunnel a route through the mountain.
  • In the absence of any better alternative, we will have to proceed with the original plan.
  • Imposing sanctions is a moderate action when you consider that the alternative is military intervention.

(Definition of “alternative” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"alternative" in American English

See all translations

alternativenoun [ C ]

us /ɔlˈtɜr·nə·t̬ɪv/

something that is different, esp. from what is usual; a choice:

You can make it look good by comparing it to a crummy alternative.
I have no alternative but to ask you to leave.

alternativeadjective [ not gradable ]

us /ɔlˈtɜr·nə·t̬ɪv/

offering a choice between two or more things:

People stay because they don’t have alternative opportunities.

Alternative medicine is a wide range of treatments for medical conditions that people use instead of, or with, Western medicine.

(Definition of “alternative” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)