19

I think there's a word or an adjective for it, but I don't remember what it was. I don't want to say plan B, because that's too informal, but I remember there was a good word for it. I just don't remember it anymore.

For example:

The army was flanked by the enemies unexpectedly so that the general had to rely on his ___ plan.

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    As a footnote, I found Plan B listed in four dictionaries, and none of them listed it as informal, colloquial, or slang. (There’s nothing wrong with asking for synonyms, but it may not be as informal as you seem to think it is.) – J.R. Apr 13 at 20:02
  • FWIW, I think "backup plan" is more commonplace (at least here in the US) than "fallback plan". Both are acceptable and likely as easily understood by native English speakers pretty much anywhere, but I figured it was worth noting that backup plan seems to be more common. This Google Ngram shows first usage of "backup" in 1958 vs "fallback" in 1964, with backup being ~10x more popular. – Doktor J 2 days ago
40

The Oxford Dictionary has

fallback
NOUN

1 An alternative plan that may be used in an emergency.

Make sure you have a fallback plan in case something goes terribly wrong

So the sentence can be

The army was flanked by the enemies unexpectedly so that the general had to rely on his fallback plan.

In the context, this is particularly apt.

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    "Backup" is one I hear used a lot as well, i.e. "Luckily, he had a backup plan." – Riker Apr 14 at 1:39
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    Sorry, but 'fallback' is a bad choice for this example, since it implies that it involves a retreat of some sort, which is inappropriate at best. – Mike Brockington Apr 15 at 14:08
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    @MikeBrockington You mean, because it sounds like "fall back", its meaning is the same? I disagree. – Mr Lister Apr 15 at 15:44
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    Sometimes "backup" isn't an emergency plan at all but part of the main plan, that is, support. – Weather Vane 2 days ago
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    As a native speaker in the US, this may be a valid word to use but it's rarely used. A backup plan is MUCH more common. – JeffC 2 days ago
113

That's often called a backup plan:

He was used as a backup plan when the remaining members of the gang failed to accomplish their mission.

This usage is also mentioned in Merriam-Webster's definition for backup:

1 a: one that serves as a substitute or support
// I brought an extra pencil for backup.
// a backup plan

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    I don't think backup plan is the most used term. – Kelly Thomas Apr 14 at 9:04
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    That surprises me, but check this graph. It only runs to 2008, and the growth of 'backup plan' might have been halted, but I'm really curious what the frequency nowadays is. – Glorfindel Apr 14 at 13:02
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    I think the term "backup" gained a lot more technical meaning and it simply sounds like something a server administrator does. – Nelson Apr 15 at 4:25
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    @DoctorPenguin yeah I have never heard anyone say "fallback" plan but loads having a backup plan. – WendyG Apr 15 at 11:11
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    Yes, backup plan is the most common in American English: english-corpora.org/coca/?c=coca&q=74949944 – snailboat 2 days ago
73

That could also be called a contingency or a contingency plan. The Oxford Living Dictionaries gives sense 1.1 under noun as :

A provision for a possible event or circumstance.

"stores were kept as a contingency against a blockade"

The process of developing one or several alternate plans is often called contingency planning.

Dictionary.com gives as an example:

Turkey has cooperated at times with Israel and the West on contingency planning for Syria during its civil war. (Israel Bombs Gaza While Hamas’ Kidnapping Mastermind Sits in Turkey|Eli Lake|July 1, 2014|DAILY BEAST)

28

For military purposes, it's Contingency Plan. This is the accepted term as taught in all leadership and mission planning courses, from Basic training to NCO Academy. The terms 'Backup Plan' and 'Fallback Plan' are NEVER used, since they have a negative connotation much in the same vein as 'Retreat'.

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  • 2
    Great answer, especially since the Q has a military example. – Xen2050 Apr 15 at 1:05
  • As do "Abort" and "Surrender". But consider also "Auftragstaktik" borrowed from the German. Only used in very educated circles. – mckenzm Apr 15 at 5:29
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    Not just a negative connotation but also could lead to misunderstandings or ambiguity. "Fallback!" is a pretty clear order to do a pretty clear thing - you don't want a commander telling people to go to the "fallback" plan and have people start running away because they misheard the context. Same reason air traffic control never use the word "takeoff" unless they are telling someone they are clear for takeoff - you don't want someone hearing the word and thinking they've been told to do something they've not. – J... Apr 15 at 14:19

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