alpha

1 of 2

noun

al·​pha ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio)
plural alphas
1
: the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet see Alphabet Table
2
a
: something that is first : beginning compare omega see also alpha and omega
b
: something or someone designated with the name alpha or the Greek letter α especially denoting the first in position, order, or class
3
4
5
: the first version of a product (such as a computer program) that is being developed and tested
usually used before another noun
alpha versionsalpha testing
also : a stage of product development in which alpha prototypes are released
a product that is available in alpha
compare beta
6
: a socially dominant person or animal
Mike is the ringleader, the alpha of the group. Tom is his wingman … Jason Blake
[Kamala] Harris came with a clear plan, was well prepared, and executed perfectly. The fact that she was willing to take on Biden, the front-runner, signaled that she was the alpha on the stage. Philip Klein
The rest of the animals hold positions in the pecking order below the alphas and respect their leadership roles, although they may challenge other wolves (even alphas) to raise their rank. C. C. Holland

alpha

2 of 2

adjective

1
: closest in the structure of an organic molecule to a particular group or atom
symbol α
α-substitution
2
: socially dominant especially in a group of animals
an alpha male
3

Example Sentences

Noun money is not the alpha and omega—the beginning and end—of life's purpose
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
As far as official Telltale games go, the company's upcoming narrative adventure, The Expanse: A Telltale Series, was announced with a summer 2023 launch window, along with a peek at pre-alpha gameplay. Sam Machkovech, Ars Technica, 23 Aug. 2022 Definitely not the style of my alpha husband, who would enter purposefully with supplies or advice: That’s not the right tool. Amy Doyle, New York Times, 13 Mar. 2020 Bryant and O’Neal had an inevitable falling-out: not even L.A.’s sprawl could contain those two alpha egos. Sean Gregory, Time, 30 Jan. 2020 Most have stood apart from their football-playing peers for years, and their alpha personalities often make for an interesting mix in the locker room. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, 18 Oct. 2019 The new game will likely arrive sometime next year, and is now in alpha testing. Eric Adams, Wired, 15 Dec. 2019

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

Middle English, from Latin, from Greek, of Semitic origin; akin to Hebrew āleph aleph

Adjective

(sense 2) from attributive use of alpha entry 1; (sense 3) by shortening

First Known Use

Noun

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of alpha was in the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near alpha

Cite this Entry

“Alpha.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alpha. Accessed 6 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

alpha

noun

al·​pha
ˈal-fə
1
: the first letter of the Greek alphabet
A or α
2
: something that is first : beginning

Medical Definition

alpha 1 of 2

noun

al·​pha ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio)
1
: the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet
symbol Α or α
2
3

alpha

2 of 2

adjective

variants or α-
1
: of or relating to one of two or more closely related chemical substances
the alpha chain of hemoglobin
α-yohimbine
used somewhat arbitrarily to specify ordinal relationship or a particular physical form, especially one that is allotropic, isomeric, stereoisomeric, or sometimes polymeric (as in α-D-glucose)
2
: closest in position in the structure of an organic molecule to a particular group or atom
also : occurring at or having a structure characterized by such a position
α-substitution

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