pro·​to·​type | \ ˈprō-tə-ˌtīp How to pronounce prototype (audio) \

Definition of prototype

1 : an original model on which something is patterned : archetype
2 : an individual that exhibits the essential features of a later type
3 : a standard or typical example
4 : a first full-scale and usually functional form of a new type or design of a construction (such as an airplane)

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The prefix prot-, or proto-, comes from Greek and has the basic meaning "first in time" or "first formed." A prototype is someone or something that serves as a model or inspiration for those that come later. A successful fund-raising campaign can serve as a prototype for future campaigns. The legendary Robin Hood, the "prototypical" kindhearted and honorable outlaw, has been the inspiration for countless other romantic heroes. And for over a century, Vincent van Gogh has been the prototype of the brilliant, tortured artist who is unappreciated in his own time.

Examples of prototype in a Sentence

They tested the prototype of the car. He is developing a prototype for his invention. He is the prototype of a conservative businessman. The Sherlock Holmes stories are the prototypes of modern detective stories.
Recent Examples on the Web In the films, the car is described as being painted a color called Silver Birch, but the film was shot using a prototype of the DB5, not an actual production car. Peter Valdes-dapena, CNN, 19 May 2022 The first working digital video recorder (DVR) prototype is developed at Stanford University Computer Science department. Gil Press, Forbes, 26 Apr. 2022 Eviation’s first prototype debuted to rave reviews at the Paris Air Show in 2019, but in early 2020, a fire in the lithium-ion battery pack destroyed that aircraft. Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone, 19 Apr. 2022 The first test of a prototype is expected to happen next year. Michael Verdon, Robb Report, 2 May 2022 As a result, a tech enthusiast took photos of the Pixel Watch prototype and posted them online. Chris Smith, BGR, 25 Apr. 2022 Sitting at the wheel of a prototype at the company’s test track in Dearborn, Mr. Farley floored it. New York Times, 18 Apr. 2022 Testing of the prototype in the Northeast is expected to continue this year. Washington Post, 13 Apr. 2022 An unfortunate thing happened in the testing of a prototype of Omega's new Ultra Deep diver's watch. Jeremy White, Wired, 7 Mar. 2022 See More

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

First Known Use of prototype

1552, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for prototype

French, from Greek prōtotypon, from neuter of prōtotypos archetypal, from prōt- + typos type

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The first known use of prototype was in 1552

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Last Updated

23 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prototype.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on prototype

Nglish: Translation of prototype for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of prototype for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about prototype


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