Alternate means "by turns;" alternative means "offering a choice." Both imply two kinds or things. Alternation is the process of two things following one another regularly by turns (as night and day); an alternative is a choice of two things, the acceptance of one implying the rejection of the other. Related: Alternacy.
1550s, "occurring or acting by turns, one after the other," present-participle adjective from alternate (v.). Electrical alternating current is recorded from 1839, an electrical current which flows alternately in opposite directions without interruption.
Proto-Indo-European root meaning "beyond."
It forms all or part of: adulteration; adultery; alias; alibi; alien; alienate; alienation; allegory; allele; allergy; allo-; allopathy; allotropy; Alsace; alter; altercation; alternate; alternative; altruism; eldritch; else; hidalgo; inter alia; other; outrage; outrageous; outre; parallax; parallel; subaltern; synallagmatic; ulterior; ultimate; ultra-.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit anya "other, different," arana- "foreign;" Avestan anya-, Armenian ail "another;" Greek allos "other, different, strange;" Latin alius "another, other, different," alter "the other (of two)," ultra "beyond, on the other side;" Gothic aljis "other," Old English elles "otherwise, else," German ander "other."