Parallel universe or alternative reality is a self-contained separate reality coexisting with one's own. A specific group of parallel universes is called a multiverse, although this term can also be used to describe the possible parallel universes that constitute physical reality.
While the terms "parallel universe" and "alternative reality" are generally synonymous and can be used interchangeably in most cases, there is sometimes an additional connotation implied with the term "alternative reality" that implies that the reality is a variant of our own.
The term "parallel universe" is more general, without any connotations implying a relationship, or lack of relationship, with our own universe. A universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, one in which there are no relativistic limitations and the speed of light can be exceeded – would in general count as a parallel universe but not an alternative reality. The correct quantum mechanical definition of parallel universes is "universes that are separated from each other by a single quantum event."