The Meaning of Either: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of either? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word either, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word either mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word either is a conjunction that means one of two alternatives. This is also considered a quantifier or a determiner, and can be used as a pronoun, adjective, or adverb as well. Either is two syllables – ei-ther, and the pronunciation of either in American English is ˈiðər or ˈaɪðə. This word is usually used in a negative statement. When either is followed by a prepositional phrase with a plural object, one can use a plural verb, but a singular verb is more common. The word either implies ambiguity.

Many different languages also contain words that mean either. Check out this list of translations of either from Word Sense.

  •  French: l’un ou l’autre‎ (masc.), l’une ou l’autre (fem.) (for two feminine nouns), ou‎
  •  Italian: l’uno o l’altro‎ (masc.), l’una o l’altra (fem.) (for two feminine nouns)
  •  Romanian: oricare‎
  •  Estonian: kumb‎
  •  Swedish: endera‎, vilken som‎
  •  Scots: ither‎
  •  Pashto: لا‎ (lâ), يا‎ (yâ)
  •  Bulgarian: или‎, един или друг‎ (masc.)
  •  Finnish: jompikumpi‎
  •  Russian: любо́й‎, оди́н из двух‎, оди́н и́ли друго́й‎
  •  Portuguese: ou‎
  •  Bokmål: enten‎
  •  Polish: obojętnie który‎ (masc.), którykolwiek‎ (masc.)
  •  Mandarin: 兩者之一‎, 两者之一‎ (liǎng zhě zhī yī)
  •  Japanese: どちらか‎ (dochiraka)
  •  Belarusian: любы́‎ (masc.)
  •  Irish: ceachtar‎
  •  Spanish: cualquiera de los dos‎, uno u otro‎
  •  Dutch: of‎
  •  German: entweder‎
  •  Lojban: (forethought) gonai‎, (afterthought) .ijonai‎

What are synonyms and antonyms of the word either?

There are numerous different words in the English language that have the same meaning as the word either. These are called synonyms. Synonyms can be used in place of a certain word, and are useful to know because they can help expand your vocabulary and help you avoid repeating yourself. This list of synonyms of either is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  tete-a-tete
  •  on the other hand
  •  as an alternative
  •  into the bargain
  •  identically
  •  and all
  •  one
  •  either one
  •  anyone
  •  anyway
  •  for good measure
  •  furthermore
  •  both of them
  •  then
  •  in addition to this
  •  correspondingly
  •  preferentially
  •  besides
  •  like
  •  part of
  •  kind of
  •  each and every
  •  if
  •  in like manner
  •  in other words
  •  every last one
  •  withal
  •  so
  •  even if
  •  anything
  •  or but
  •  all
  •  in case
  •  again
  •  in the bargain
  •  each
  •  further
  •  one of two
  •  irrespective
  •  either-or
  •  whether
  •  including
  •  this one
  •  as a choice
  •  additionally
  •  whichever
  •  each one
  •  as well
  •  any
  •  moreover
  •  by the same token
  •  yet
  •  every
  •  conversely
  •  such
  •  that kind of
  •  as well as
  •  as a substitute
  •  and
  •  anybody
  •  whatsoever
  •  coupled with
  •  each other
  •  what ever
  •  more
  •  along
  •  both
  •  also
  •  more than that
  •  like that
  •  or else
  •  not only that
  •  forbye
  •  that
  •  on top of that
  •  along with it
  •  every one
  •  in turn
  •  or
  •  too
  •  on top of
  •  whatever
  •  likewise
  •  equally
  •  else
  •  one or the other
  •  in preference to
  •  in conjunction with
  •  suchlike
  •  or only
  •  not to mention
  •  one another
  •  along with
  •  each of two
  •  which
  •  boot
  •  in addition to
  •  anyhow
  •  in addition

There are also many different words that mean the opposite of the word either. These are called antonyms, which are another great way to expand your vocabulary. This list of antonyms of either is also provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  although
  •  nix
  •  any body
  •  not a soul
  •  concurrently
  •  anybody
  •  without choice
  •  not
  •  nothing
  •  zero
  •  few and far between people
  •  no one
  •  and not
  •  for
  •  any
  •  all
  •  alike
  •  either
  •  dearth of persons
  •  few people
  •  but
  •  neither
  •  after
  •  nor
  •  by no means
  •  aren’t
  •  together
  •  not at all
  •  not any
  •  no more
  •  not one
  •  nobody
  •  conjunction
  •  and
  •  as well
  •  none
  •  equally
  •  dearth of people
  •  no
  •  anyone
  •  any one
  •  equal
  •  uncomplete
  •  both do not
  •  also not
  •  not either
  •  as much
  •  nor yet
  •  at once
  •  no-one
  •  few and far between persons

What is the origin of the word either?

According to Etymonline, the word either comes from the Middle English aither and Old English ægðer, Old English ǣgther, Old English ǣġhwæþer and ǣghwæther, which is contraction of æghwæðer (can be used as a pron., adv., conj.) meaning “each of two, or both,” from aye meaning “always” and ge, a collective prefix. These are combined with hwæðer or hwæther meaning “which of two or whether” The word either is a cognate with Old Frisian eider, Dutch ieder, Old Frisian ēider, Old High German ēogihweder, Old High German eogiwedar, ieweder, Iogewether, Iother, iegeweder, Iegihweder,  iowether, Iahwethar, Old Dutch, Old Saxon eogihwethar, Old high German eogihwedar, and German jeder. Related roots include or and ohg. This has been used in British English with the ei spelling as a prepositional phrase, correlative conjunctions, and more for a plural object with a singular verb or plural verb depending on the number of the noun a for many years.

How can either be used in a sentence?

There are many situations where the word either is or good usage. Take a look at the following sentence examples. 

John did not want to stand on either side of the channel. It was far too cold. 

In the time of early settlement in the 19th century, they could either risk the mushrooms being poison or starve to death. They chose to bake them into cookies. Now, people ate pizza with peppers, onions and mushrooms not only for survival but for pleasure, along with dessert like doughnuts. 

Stein would have to either prove himself as a genius or admit he was a liar – which he had a tendency to do. 

The dogmatists at Princeton University argued over if they either needed a comma in the sentence or not. The talkers were frustrating the rest of the class. 

Overall, the word either (ˈiːðə) is a sentence modifier, first correlative conjunction, and adverb in standard British speech and American speech. This word introduces a choice of alternatives. This coordinating conjunction is often used earth singular nouns and a plural noun in negative clauses, and is of Proto-Germanic origin. 


  1.  either: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  2. Either synonyms – 383 Words and Phrases for Either | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Neither synonyms – 207 Words and Phrases for Neither | Power Thesaurus 
  4. either | Origin and meaning of either | Online Etymology Dictionary 
  5. Either definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary