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

Definition of alopecia

: loss of hair, wool, or feathers

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 During the ceremony, Chris Rock, who was one of the presenters, made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith's shaved head, caused by her alopecia, and Will Smith reacted by going up to the stage and slapping Rock. Rosa Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, 4 May 2022 Bill Maher chose to downplay her alopecia earlier this month on his HBO talk show, Real Time. Glenn Garner,, 11 Apr. 2022 Jada has opened up numerous times in the recent past about her hair loss and the effect alopecia has had on her. Alexis Gaskin, Glamour, 29 Mar. 2022 Many outlets that published op-eds reflected on the insensitivity of Rock’s comment about Pinket Smith’s alopecia condition. Greg Emmanuel, Essence, 29 Mar. 2022 Androgenetic alopecia happens when scalp follicles are hypersensitive to dihydrotestosterone, which is critical for most hair growth but detrimental to head hair growth. Kristen Rogers, CNN, 29 Mar. 2022 Jada has been open about her struggles with hair loss and alopecia, and debuted her shaved hairstyle in July 2021. Greta Bjornson,, 29 Mar. 2022 Treatment for different kinds of alopecia and baldness depends on the underlying cause of the hair loss, but most forms of baldness don’t have a cure. Marina Pitofsky, USA TODAY, 28 Mar. 2022 Treatment depends on the type of alopecia and the extent of the hair loss., 28 Mar. 2022 See More

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.

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

16 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Alopecia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 May. 2022.

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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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