alpha

noun
al·​pha | \ ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio) \

Definition of alpha

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet — see Alphabet Table
2 : something that is first : beginning
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

alpha

adjective

Definition of alpha (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Toothless is an alpha male whose assertion of his supremacy over dragonkind is thwarted and threatened by a sneering dragon hunter, Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), who has devoted his life to exterminating Night Furies. Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times, "‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’: Third film soars with extraordinary visuals," 20 Feb. 2019 His more formal elder brother, Moshe (Erik Lochtefeld, dependably fun to watch), an alpha politician, will serve as the nation’s second prime minister. Laura Collins-hughes, New York Times, "Review: ‘A Walk With Mr. Heifetz’ Stumbles Through History," 20 Feb. 2018 If Claire represents a more liberal way of thinking from the future, Jamie is her alpha male foil from the past. Alexandra Macon, Vogue, "We Need to Talk About Outlander Season 4," 25 Jan. 2019 The series premiered in the United Kingdom on November 11 with an episode about chimpanzees in the jungles of Senegal and Guinea, following the challenges alpha male David faces after several years as the group's leader. Gabe Bergado, Teen Vogue, "BBC Earth's "Dynasties" Pulls at Heartstrings With the Painted Wolves’ Fight for Survival," 12 Dec. 2018 Or test your tolerance for small portions of less-gassy legumes like lentils and chickpeas with the aid of a bean-fiber-busting enzyme supplement called alpha galactosidase. SELF, "Why This Registered Dietitian Tells (Some of) Her Patients to Avoid Kale Salads," 30 Nov. 2018 In Parkinson’s disease, a protein called alpha-synuclein origamis itself into a mess. Jacqueline Detwiler, Popular Mechanics, "The Heroes of Science Who Are Unlocking the Brain," 3 Oct. 2018 Anthem alpha and Dragon Age BioWare’s got a double dose of news this week. Hayden Dingman, PCWorld, "This week in games: Obsidian teases a game reveal, the FTC pledges to look into loot boxes," 30 Nov. 2018 Kwame’s transition to becoming the new alpha for the family of female gorillas was described by zoo staff as an easy one. Hannah Rodriguez, The Seattle Times, "New ape in town: Kwame makes rare alpha-male debut at Woodland Park Zoo," 9 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

More young talent is needed, but so is a nasty, alpha-type player who can set the tone up front and ease the burden on the secondary and linebackers. 2. Terez A. Paylor, kansascity, "Here are the Chiefs’ five biggest needs heading into next season | The Kansas City Star," 9 Mar. 2018 The enormous clouds emit large amounts of ultraviolet light with a spectral line produced by hydrogen ions, known as a Lyman-alpha line. Jay Bennett, Popular Mechanics, "Giant Glowing Space Blob's Power Source Discovered," 21 Sep. 2016 Actress Sydelle Noel embodies a similar ethos by taking on brawny, brassy, alpha woman roles. Abby Haglage, refinery29.com, "4 Black Girls With Big Dreams & The 4 Women Living Them," 13 July 2018 As the alpha brother, Romeo, wild, fun and charmingly manipulative, Pucci is transformed by a long, blond beard. Katie Walsh, latimes.com, "Review: Lou Taylor Pucci enlivens wild and wooly 'Poor Boy'," 12 July 2018 To combat those slips, the platform is adding visibility tools through a new feature, still in alpha testing, called Cloud Security Command Center. Lily Hay Newman, WIRED, "Google's Fix For the Gaffe Behind So Many Data Leaks," 21 Mar. 2018 He’s been surrounded all his life by alpha women — his late mother was a screaming, hard-drinking firecracker of a woman. New York Times, "Josh Brolin Fears the Summer of Josh Brolin," 20 June 2018 For state officials, a particular source of concern was alpha contamination, which was also found in some of the dust collected in previous years for Kaltofen’s study. Hal Bernton, The Seattle Times, "Study: Traces of radioactive contamination found in homes of six Hanford workers," 14 June 2018 At a summit where both men sought to play the alpha role, the optics were inherently in Trump’s favor. Laignee Barron, Time, "Body Language Experts Reveal What Trump and Kim's Behavior Says About the Singapore Summit," 12 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of alpha

Noun

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for alpha

Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about alpha

Statistics for alpha

Last Updated

24 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for alpha

The first known use of alpha was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for alpha

alpha

noun

Financial Definition of alpha

What It Is

The definition of alpha on InvestingAnswersAlpha, also known as "excess return" or "abnormal rate of return," is one of the most widely used measures of risk-adjusted performance. The number shows how much better or worse a fund performed relative to a benchmark. This difference is then attributed to the decisions made by the fund's management.

How It Works

Let's assume you are a portfolio manager who expects your client's portfolio to return 15% next year. The year goes by and the portfolio actually returns 16%. In its most basic sense, the alpha of the portfolio = 16% - 15% = 1%.

Mathematically speaking, alpha is the rate of return that exceeds what was expected or predicted by models like the capital asset pricing model (CAPM). To understand how it works, consider the CAPM formula:

r   =   Rf  + beta * (Rm - Rf )   +   alpha

where:
r = the security's or portfolio's return
Rf  = the risk-free rate of return
beta = the security's or portfolio's price volatility relative to the overall market
Rm  = the market return

The main part of the CAPM formula (except the excess-return factor) calculates what the rate of return on a certain security or portfolio ought to be under certain market conditions. Note that two similar portfolios might carry the same amount of risk (same beta) but because of different alphas, it's possible for one to generate higher returns than the other. This is a fundamental quandary for investors, who always want the highest return for the least amount of risk.

Why It Matters

The fundamental quandary for investors of how get the highest return possible for the least amount of risk can be measured by alpha. It is a measurable way to determine whether a manager's skill has added value to a fund on a risk-adjusted basis.

The very existence of alpha is controversial, however, because those who believe in the efficient market hypothesis (which says, among other things, that it is impossible to beat the market) attribute alpha to luck instead of skill, and base this belief on the fact that most managers fail to beat the market over the long-term.

Source: Investing Answers

alpha

noun

English Language Learners Definition of alpha

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the first letter of the Greek alphabet
: the first version of a product (such as a computer program) that is being developed and tested

alpha

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of alpha (Entry 2 of 2)

: having the most power in a group of animals or people

alpha

noun
al·​pha | \ ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio) \

Medical Definition of alpha

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet symbol Α or α

alpha

adjective
variants: or α-

Medical Definition of alpha (Entry 2 of 2)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for alpha

Britannica English: Translation of alpha for Arabic Speakers

Comments on alpha

What made you want to look up alpha? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to corrupt or become corrupted

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

A Green Quiz

  • shamrock
  • What is the best definition of green-eyed monster?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!