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 \ -​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

She eventually was diagnosed with the autoimmune disorder alopecia areata, an incurable condition that is said to affect nearly 7 million people in the United States. San Diego Union-Tribune, "For San Diego-raised actor Jackie Nguyen, ‘Miss Saigon’ has been a major part of her art and life," 30 June 2019 Because traction alopecia is caused by inflammation, Dr. Henry injects the scalp with steroids. Crystal Martin, New York Times, "What Black Women Need to Know About Hair Loss," 2 Apr. 2018 In fact, Allure recently shared the stories of six women with alopecia. Devon Abelman, Allure, "K-Pop Star Peniel of BTOB Opens Up About His Struggle With Hair Loss Due to Alopecia," 12 June 2018 Now, Jada Pinkett Smith is opening up about her biggest insecurity, one that over seven million people will deal with in their lifetime: alopecia. Samantha Sasso,, "The Real Reason Jada Pinkett Smith Covers Her Hair," 22 May 2018 Subsequent thinning, traction alopecia, can still be reversed. Crystal Martin, New York Times, "What Black Women Need to Know About Hair Loss," 2 Apr. 2018 Not everyone who has alopecia loses all their hair. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "7 People Describe What It's Really Like to Have Alopecia," 14 May 2018 Marla Martin had nine inches of her hair cut off for Children With Hair Loss, a nonprofit organization that provides free services in the Midwest to children and teens who are fighting cancer, alopecia, burns or other medical conditions. Jane Ford-stewart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Police officer at West Allis' Nathan Hale High School donates her hair to charity helping kids fighting cancer," 14 May 2018 Most recently, autoimmune drugs known as Janus kinase inhibitors -- JAK inhibitors -- have been found to produce a full head of hair in patients with moderate to severe alopecia areata, a type of baldness that affects both men and women. Susan Scutti, CNN, "Side effects include ... a potential treatment for baldness," 9 May 2018

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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Last Updated

11 Jul 2019

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

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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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