Alternative history – Definition & Meaning

Alternative history is a fascinating genre of fiction that explores what could have happened if certain events in history had turned out differently. It is a form of speculative fiction that imagines a different outcome to historical events, and it has become increasingly popular in recent years. In this article, we will explore the definition and meaning of alternative history, its origins, and its associations.


Alternative history, also known as alternate history or uchronia, is a subgenre of speculative fiction that explores what would have happened if certain historical events had turned out differently. It is a form of counterfactual history that imagines a different outcome to a significant event or series of events in history.


The term “alternative history” was first coined by science fiction author J.B. Priestley in his 1931 book, “Wonder Hero.” However, the genre can be traced back to the 19th century, when writers such as Charles Dickens and Nathaniel Hawthorne explored the idea of alternate timelines and parallel universes.

Meaning in different dictionaries

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, alternative history is “a genre of fiction in which the author imagines how the course of history might have been altered if certain key events had unfolded differently.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “a fictional genre in which the author speculates about how history might have been altered if certain events had occurred differently.”


Alternative history is often associated with science fiction and fantasy, as it involves speculative elements such as time travel, parallel universes, and alternate timelines. It is also associated with historical fiction, as it often takes place in a specific historical period and explores the consequences of a different outcome to a significant event.


Synonyms for alternative history include alternate history, uchronia, counterfactual history, and speculative history.


There are no direct antonyms for alternative history, as it is a specific genre of fiction. However, it can be contrasted with traditional historical fiction, which aims to accurately depict historical events and figures.

The same root words

The root words of alternative history are “alternative,” which means “different from the usual or conventional,” and “history,” which refers to the study of past events. Together, these words imply a different interpretation or version of historical events.

Example Sentences

  1. “What if the Nazis had won World War II?” is a common theme in alternative history.
  2. The novel “The Man in the High Castle” by Philip K. Dick is a classic example of alternative history.
  3. Many alternative history writers use real historical figures as characters in their stories.
  4. The popularity of alternative history reflects our fascination with the “what if” questions of history.
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