Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • pro. The one or the other: Which movie do you want to see? Either will be fine.
  • conj. Used before the first of two or more coordinates or clauses linked by or: Either we go now or we remain here forever.
  • adj. Any one of two; one or the other: Wear either coat.
  • adj. One and the other; each: rings on either hand.
  • adv. Likewise; also. Used as an intensive following negative statements: If you don't order a dessert, I won't either.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • pro. Both, each of two (people or things).
  • pro. One or other of two people or things.
  • adv. as well
  • conj. Introduces the first of two options, the second of which is introduced by "or".

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. One of two; the one or the other; -- properly used of two things, but sometimes of a larger number, for any one.
  • adj. Each of two; the one and the other; both; -- formerly, also, each of any number.
  • conj. Either precedes two, or more, coördinate words or phrases, and is introductory to an alternative. It is correlative to or.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Being one or the other of two, taken indifferently or as the case requires: referring to two units or particulars of a class: as, it can be done in either way; take either apple; the boat will land on either side.
  • Being one and the other of two; being both of two, or each of two taken together but viewed separately: as, they took seats on either side.
  • [In this use, each or both, according to construction, is nearly if not quite always to be preferred. Properly, either refers indefinitely to one or the other of two (and often in actual use, though less accurately, to some one of any number); each, definitely to every one of two or any larger number considered individually: a distinctness of signification which ought to be maintained, since interchange of the words (less practised by careful writers now than formerly) offers no advantage, but may create ambiguity. Both, two together, one and the other taken jointly, should be preferred when this is the specific sense; but both and each may often be interchanged. Thus, the camp may be pitched on either side of the stream (on one or the other side indifferently); there were two camps, one on each side; the camp was pitched on both sides (one camp, divided); there are fine buildings on both sides of the street, or on each side, but not on either side.]
  • One or the other; one of two, taken indifferently.
  • Each of two; the one and the other.
  • In one case; according to one choice or supposition (in a series of two or more): a disjunctive conjunction, preceding one of a series of two or more alternative clauses, and correlative with or before the following clause or clauses. Sometimes, as in poetry, or is used before the first clause also.
  • In any case; at all: used adverbially, for emphasis, after a sentence expressing a negation of one or two alternatives, or of all alternatives: corresponding to too similarly used after affirmative sentences: as, he tried it, and didn't succeed; then I tried it, but I didn't succeed, either. That's mine; no, it isn't, either.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. after a negative statement used as an intensive meaning something like `likewise' or `also'

Etymologies

Middle English, from Old English ǣther, ǣghwæther; see kwo- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
Old English ǣġhwæþer, from Proto-Germanic, ultimately corresponding to ay + whether. Akin to Old Saxon eogihwethar, iahwethar; Old Dutch *iogewether, *iowether, *iother (Dutch ieder); Old High German eogihwedar, iegihweder, ieweder (German jeder). (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • A contranym: as an adjective, it can mean "one or the other of two," as in "you either passed or failed your test". It can also mean "each of two; the one and the other" as in "there are trees on either side of the river." (Wikipedia)

    June 7, 2008

  • I either want to go to the mall or have someone do my nails.

    February 15, 2007

  • Should I do this or this? Daniel

    February 15, 2007

  • February 15, 2007