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 alopecia (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 Alicia typically wears a hat because of an alopecia condition, which causes her hair to fall out. Joe Mario Pedersen,, "Florida student says she was bullied for wearing Trump mask and hat: report," 30 Mar. 2021 Founder Lulu Cordero set out to create products that promote hair health to nourish her curls and treat her alopecia by leaning into recipes used in her native Dominican Republic. Kiana Murden, CNN Underscored, "26 women-owned brands for all your everyday essentials," 1 Mar. 2021 Another woman, Patti Johnston, 37, a stay-at-home mother of three in Idaho Falls, Idaho, said her alopecia recently flared up from anxiety. Author: Daryl Austin, Anchorage Daily News, "Who is handling the pandemic best emotionally? Boomers and retirees.," 29 Sep. 2020 Others used the tweet to spark discussions about their respective alopecia or hair loss. Aimee Simeon,, "“Who Needs Hair With These Cheekbones?” Ayanna Pressley’s Selfie Sends A Powerful Message," 4 Sep. 2020 In fact, research shows that more than 50% of women will develop androgenetic alopecia by the age of 80. Kaitlyn Pirie, Good Housekeeping, "Everything You Need to Know About Hair Loss, According to Dermatologists," 3 Aug. 2020 In the months leading up to the decision, her 7-year-old son was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes hair loss. Washington Post, "Virginia mom shaves head for son, goes viral on Tik Tok," 14 Mar. 2020 Traction alopecia tends to affect around the hairline where the baby hair and edges are located. Janell Hickman, Allure, "How to Tell If Your "New" Baby Hair Is Actually Breakage," 22 Apr. 2020 Visually, the hairs are short and broken and can result in bald patches that can be misdiagnosed as ringworm or alopecia areata. Jennifer Hussein, Allure, "6 People on the Reality of Living With Trichotillomania," 13 Mar. 2020

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

10 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Alopecia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

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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 alopecia (audio) \ adjective

More from Merriam-Webster on alopecia

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

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