Alt – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Did someone in a video game tell you they were going to switch to an alt, or has someone described themselves as an alt? Keep reading to discover what this slang word means, and how it got started.

Meaning

The internet slang “alt” is short for “alternative”. It can be used as an adjective or a noun.

As the word alternative has numerous different meanings, the slang alt does, too. The most common meanings include:

  • Alt accounts in video games, meaning secondary accounts that do not serve as the player’s main username.
  • “Alt” youth cultures, such as emo, Indie pop, or simply quirky.
  • Political formations or ideas that have arisen as an “alternative” to more established movements, with the phrase “alt right” being most well-known.

A more rarely-used meaning of the abbreviation “alt” is “a lot”.

Example Usage

Do you still feel unsure about the ways in which the internet slang alt might be used in a sentence? These examples will clarify the meaning of the term alt:

  • It’s a common misconception that alt accounts are only used for trolling. I use my Minecraft alt for AFK fish farming, while my main account can do PvP.
  • Some teenagers call themselves alts, as in alternative, to indicate that they are nothing like the other kids.
  • Nah, I don’t wanna ask that alt girl out. She’s just too weird for me, man.
  • Donald Trump’s popularity was closely associated with the rise of the alt

Origin

As a form of internet slang, the abbreviation “alt” first came into being on the once popular discussion system Usenet, which went live in the year 1980. Newsgroups were marked in various ways, with “alt” being one of them. This type of group appear in 1987 and denoted alternative and often controversial content.

When multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) and massively multiplayer online role-playing (MMORP) video games became popular, “alt” retained the meaning “alternative”. It began to refer, however, to alternative or secondary accounts.

These accounts allow players to play as a different character, to use a lower tier to create a challenge or a fair fight for an opponent, or (in some cases) to troll or gain access to unique perks.

This meaning of the word alt was first defined on Urban Dictionary in 2004.

In more recent times (starting in around 2020), the slang “alt”, as used online and offline, also came to refer to alternative youth cultures. According to Urban Dictionary users, “alt” youth wear quirky clothes, listen to Indie music, and typically have left-wing or “woke” politics.

The phrase “alt right” represents a polar opposite — it was a way for right-wing Americans, who were frequently Trump supporters, to distinguish themselves from the Republican Party establishment and to organize themselves into a coherent movement. This phrase became well-known in the year 2016.

Phrases Similar to Alt

Instead of saying “alt account” to denote a secondary video game account, you could also simply say “my second account”, “my other account”, or “my low tier account”.

The other meanings of the slang “alt” do not have clear synonyms.

Phrases Opposite to Alt

The opposite of an “alt account” (more commonly referred to simply as an “alt”) is a “main account” or “main”.

What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct slang term is “alt”, meaning “alternative”.

Ways People May Say Alt Incorrectly

Because the slang “alt” simply means alternative, and has come to be closely associated with youth culture in recent times, some people may guess that “alt music” would be a correct descriptor. This type of music is, instead, typically called “Indie”.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Alt

You could tell someone in a multiplayer game that you’re “just switching to your alt” if you are going to use your secondary account. You could also refer to a teenager with quirky and eclectic fashion and music tastes as being an alt person.

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