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 versions
alpha 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

Examples of alpha in a Sentence

Noun money is not the alpha and omega—the beginning and end—of life's purpose
Recent Examples on the Web
Noun
But the precise cellular destruction of alpha emitters might not always be advantageous, according to Chris Behrenbruch, CEO of Telix Pharmaceuticals in North Melbourne, Australia. Discover Magazine, 8 July 2024 Amyloid, tau, and another protein, alpha synuclein, are all involved in the disease somehow, and targeting each in different ways in different patients will be key to a more comprehensive treatment for the disease. Alice Park, TIME, 2 July 2024
Adjective
So there is rapid self-pollution of alpha elements but a more gradual self-pollution of iron. Georgina Torbet, Ars Technica, 10 June 2024 One indicator that has been useful in studying the Milky Way is looking at other aspects of their composition, such as the preponderance of what are called alpha elements, which can indicate how quickly a star formed. Georgina Torbet, Ars Technica, 10 June 2024 See all Example Sentences for alpha 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'alpha.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

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 22 Jul. 2024.

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

More from Merriam-Webster on alpha

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