al·​o·​pe·​cia | \ ˌa-lə-ˈpē-sh(ē-)ə How to pronounce alopecia (audio) \

Definition of alopecia

: loss of hair, wool, or feathers

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Other Words from alopecia

alopecic \ ˌa-​lə-​ˈpē-​sik How to pronounce alopecic (audio) \ adjective

What is the origin of alopecia?

Doctors use "alopecia" to refer to various forms of hair loss, including "alopecia areata," a sudden loss of hair in patches that involves little or no inflammation. It may surprise you to learn that the word ultimately derives from "alōpēx," the Greek word for "fox," but the connection makes sense if you think of a fox who is afflicted with mange, a disease with symptoms that include, among other things, loss of hair. Middle English speakers borrowed the Latin word alopecia, which comes from "alōpekia," a Greek term that can be translated as "mange on foxes."

Examples of alopecia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web In an empowering video made for , Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley spoke out about going bald due to alopecia, an autoimmune disease that leads to significant hair loss. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Representative Ayanna Pressley Speaks Candidly About Having Alopecia in a Moving Video," 17 Jan. 2020 According to The National Alopecia Areata Foundation, alopecia areata is a common autoimmune disease that causes hair loss on the scalp, face, and sometimes other parts of the body. Time, "Rep. Ayanna Pressley Reveals Her Hair Loss as She Shares Her ‘Very Personal’ Alopecia Diagnosis," 16 Jan. 2020 About one-third of women experience hair loss — also known as alopecia — at some time in their lives. NBC News, "Ricki Lake shaves head, shares emotional post about hair loss," 2 Jan. 2020 Bald patches or full-scalp baldness, including the loss of eyelashes and eyebrows With conditions like alopecia areata, hair loss is caused when the immune system attacks the hair follicle. Ivana Rihter, Allure, "The Complete Guide to Hair Loss for Women," 22 Aug. 2019 Since then, dozens of search and rescue teams have tirelessly scoured the surrounding mountain ranges in the hope of finding Samantha, who is bald due to having alopecia. NBC News, "Six years of Dateline's Missing in America: 134 still missing," 5 Dec. 2019 Hair loss in the form of traction alopecia, is considered one of the most common forms of hair loss in black people and results from hair being pulled too tight and too long. Ciku Kimeria, Quartz Africa, "African scientists are leading the next wave of innovation and research on black skin and hair," 17 Oct. 2019 So far, he’s created about 200 custom dolls, including a doll in a wheelchair, a doll with alopecia and one with a cochlear implant. Char Adams,, "Grandfather with Vitiligo Crochets Dolls for Kids with the Condition: They 'Feel Represented'," 23 Sep. 2019 Plasma treatments for conditions like alopecia are becoming more popular, and Kourtney did a pretty good job explaining the basics. Abby Gardner, Glamour, "Kourtney Kardashian Got Scalp Injections to Treat a Bald Spot," 13 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alopecia.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of alopecia

14th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for alopecia

Middle English allopicia, allopucia "hair loss," borrowed from Medieval Latin allōpicia, allōpitia "baldness, mange," going back to Latin alōpecia "bald patch on the head (from a skin disease)," borrowed from Greek alōpekía "bald spot" (Aristotle), "disease causing hair loss" (Galen), original sense perhaps "sarcoptic mange (affecting foxes and other canids)," from alōpek-, alṓpēx "fox" + -ia -ia entry 1; alṓpēx probably going back to dialectal Indo-European *h2lōpeḱ-/*h2lōpēḱ- "small canid, fox" (whence, besides Greek, Armenian ałuēs "fox") and *h2leupēḱ- or *h2loupēḱ- (whence Sanskrit lopāśáḥ "small canid [as a jackal or fox]," Middle Persian rōpās, rōpāh "fox," Khotanese rrūvāsa- "jackal," Ossetic (Iron dialect) rubas, ruvas "fox")

Note: An initial element *(h2)lop-, close to the Greek, Armenian, and Indo-Iranian forms but with a short o, is apparently reflected in Celtic *lop-erno-, whence Old Welsh leuyrn, leuirn "foxes" (from *lou̯ern-ī with vowel affection; cf. Modern Welsh llewyrn, tân llewyrn "foxfire"), Breton louarn "fox," and Lithuanian lãpė "fox," Latvian lapsa. The long o in alṓpēx could perhaps be taken as a reflection of an original nominative *h2lōp-s, but the diphthong in the Indo-Iranian etymon remains unexplained. The element *(h2)lop- has been compared with *u̯l̥p- "small carnivore" proposed as the source of Latin vulpēs, volpēs "fox" (see vulpine), Lithuanian vilpišỹs "wildcat" and other words, but no unifying etymon can be readily reconstructed. If related, the set of "fox" forms are perhaps traces of a non-Indo-European Wanderwort acquired by Indo-European branches at different times and places.

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The first known use of alopecia was in the 14th century

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Last Updated

24 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Alopecia.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 25 January 2020.

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More Definitions for alopecia


al·​o·​pe·​cia | \ ˌal-ə-ˈpē-sh(ē-)ə How to pronounce alopecia (audio) \

Medical Definition of alopecia

: partial or complete loss of hair, wool, or feathers : baldness

Other Words from alopecia

alopecic \ -​ˈpē-​sik How to pronounce alopecic (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on alopecia

Nglish: Translation of alopecia for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about alopecia

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dull or mediocre

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