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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.
pop music style, built on distorted guitars and rooted in generational discontent, that dominated and changed rock between 1991 and 1996. It burst into the mainstream when "Smells Like Teen Spirit"-the first major-label single from Nirvana, a trio based in Seattle, Washington, U.S.-became a national hit. Suddenly, older, difficult, and even anarchic movements, as well as a previous decade of do-it-yourself college rock, acquired a flashy beachhead on pop radio.