AskDefine | Define either

Dictionary Definition

either adv : after a negative statement used as an intensive meaning something like `likewise' or `also'; "he isn't stupid, but he isn't exactly a genius either"; "I don't know either"; "if you don't order dessert I won't either"

User Contributed Dictionary



etyl ang æghwæþer, from West etyl gem, ultimately corresponding to ay + whether


Pronunciation notes

In the UK the first pronunciation is generally more used in southern England, while the latter is more usual in northern England. However this is an oversimplification and which is actually used can vary by individual speaker and sometimes also by situation.


  1. one or the other (of two)
    I don't mind whether your mother or father attends - you can bring either parent.
  2. each of two
    The room has a door at either end.
    I don't mind whether your mother or father attends - you can bring either.


one or the other
each of two


  1. In the context of "after a negative": as well
    I don't like him and I don't like her either.



(after a negative) as well


  1. Introduces the first of two options, the second of which is introduced by "or".
    Either you eat your dinner or you go to your room.


Introduces the first of two options

Usage notes

  • When there are more than two alternatives, "any" is used instead.

See also

Extensive Definition

Either is an English pronoun, adjective, and conjunction, meaning one, or the other, of two choices. Its origin is from Old English ǽghweþer, which literally analyses as a compound word "any - whether."
Either/or means "one, or the other, but not both". Its negative is neither/nor, meaning "none of them".


Either has two different pronunciations in modern English. The pronunciation "ee-ther" prevails in American English, and is the pronunciation of the majority of English speakers. The pronunciation /ˈaɪðɚ/ "eye-ther" is associated with British English and Canadian English, but it is not universal in either place or in Australian English and other dialects that take their lead from British English. It is also found in the U.S., especially in New England, although many Americans will regard it as an affectation.
A recurring urban legend says that the eye-ther pronunciation originated with King George I or another of the Hanoverian kings of Great Britain; the king was a German who did not speak English as a native language, and was misled by English spelling. The new royal pronunciation was imitated by his courtiers, and as such became a new form. It is not likely that this is the source of the eye-ther pronunciation - before English spelling was fixed, it tended to be phonetic; as early as the 13th century, there are examples of the first vowels being spelled "ai", which would correspond to eye-ther.
An Ira Gershwin song, Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, opens with the words "You say ee-ther and I say eye-ther", and concerns a couple who lament the strain put on their relationship by pronunciation differences (and the different social backgrounds which they imply). In the end, happily, love conquers phonetics.
The 'ee-ther' pronunciation forms, with the word 'ether' one of the few minimal pairs demonstrating that the difference between the voiced dental fricative and the unvoiced dental fricative is phonemic in English.


A frequent difficulty in English usage concerns the permissibility of using either to refer to more than one alternative. Generally, either refers to exactly two alternatives. When there are more, linguistic prescriptivists counsel the use of any. One generally accepted exception to this rule is when either is used as a conjunction to introduce a string of either/or alternatives:
Either she will sink, or swim, or get out of the pool.
Any is not used as a conjunction, and cannot be used in this context.
In some cases, either can mean both. For example, a driveway that is lined by palm trees "on either side" means that the driveway is lined with palm trees on both sides.
In the context of a legal contract, the term "either" can refer to several parties and/or beneficiaries. Real estate contracts often use "either" to include the buyers, sellers, and their agents.

Logic, law, and philosophy

Either and or are occasionally misleading terms in the sometimes loose interface between English and logic. They can be used to mean a simple logical disjunction between two alternatives (either one, or the other, or both); but either...or frequently implies an exclusive disjunction between two incompatible alternatives.
The inherent ambiguity in either and or is occasionally of import in law, such as in the interpretation of statutes and contracts. In the law of investments, an "either/or" order is an order given to a stockbroker, for which the execution of one automatically cancels the other; this is typically done to combine a "buy limit" order, which will be executed if the price is below a certain point, and a "buy stop" order, executed if the price is above that point.
In philosophy, the first book Søren Kierkegaard published under a pseudonym was titled Either/Or (Danish: Enten/Eller). Written under the name Victor Eremita (Latin: the Victorious Hermit), the book contains his reflections on aesthetics and ethics, and argued against the Hegelian dialectics of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis; Kierkegaard concludes that neither aesthetics nor ethics offer a way out of the human race's existential despair, and concludes that only a leap of faith can solve that problem, arguing that making such a leap cannot have, and does not need, a rational justification*.
either in Thai: Either/or

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

a certain, a deux, an, any, any one, anybody, anyone, anything, atomic, aught, both, correspondingly, exclusive, for two, identically, in kind, in like manner, in that way, individual, indivisible, integral, irreducible, like, like that, like this, likewise, lone, monadic, monistic, one, similarly, simple, single, singular, so, sole, solid, solitary, tete-a-tete, the two, thus, unanalyzable, undivided, uniform, unique, unitary, whole
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