From Middle English otherwise, othre wise, from Old English on ōþre wīsan (literally in (on) other/different manner); equivalent to other +‎ -wise. Compare West Frisian yn oarwei (otherwise), Icelandic öðruvísi (different).


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈʌð.əˌwaɪz/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈʌð.ɚˌwaɪz/
  • (file)


otherwise (not comparable)

  1. (manner) Differently, in another way.
    You may have a point, but I think otherwise.
    Could I do otherwise than smile?
    It is not permitted to sell or otherwise distribute any copies.
  2. (conjunctive) In different circumstances; or else.
    I’m not well today, otherwise I would have helped.
    You have to open your umbrella, otherwise you'll get wet.
    • 1879, R[ichard] J[efferies], chapter 1, in The Amateur Poacher, London: Smith, Elder, & Co., [], OCLC 752825175:
      They burned the old gun that used to stand in the dark corner up in the garret, close to the stuffed fox that always grinned so fiercely. Perhaps the reason why he seemed in such a ghastly rage was that he did not come by his death fairly. Otherwise his pelt would not have been so perfect. And why else was he put away up there out of sight?—and so magnificent a brush as he had too.
    • 1897 December (indicated as 1898), Winston Churchill, chapter IV, in The Celebrity: An Episode, New York, N.Y.: The Macmillan Company; London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., OCLC 222716698, page 46:
      No matter how early I came down, I would find him on the veranda, smoking cigarettes, or otherwise his man would be there with a message to say that his master would shortly join me if I would kindly wait.
    • 2012 March-April, Terrence J. Sejnowski, “Well-connected Brains”, in American Scientist, volume 100, number 2, page 171:
      Creating a complete map of the human connectome would therefore be a monumental milestone but not the end of the journey to understanding how our brains work. The achievement will transform neuroscience and serve as the starting point for asking questions we could not otherwise have answered, [].
  3. (conjunctive) In all other respects.
    He lost his temper once in a while. Otherwise he behaved rationally.
    • 2013, Phil McNulty, BBC Sport, 1 September:
      Robin van Persie squandered United's best chance late on but otherwise it was a relatively comfortable afternoon for Liverpool's new goalkeeper Simon Mignolet, who has yet to concede a Premier League goal since his £9m summer move from Sunderland.

Usage notesEdit

  • "Otherwise" is often used to refer to the negative of something. The something may be a noun phrase, a verb phrase, an adjective phrase, an adverb phrase, a clause, or even something larger.





otherwise (not comparable)

  1. Other than supposed; different.
    He said he didn’t do it, but the evidence was otherwise.