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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Did You Know?

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web Muddy tracks from other prototypes lead into the Small Robot Company’s workshop, where a row of 3D printers make bright orange components out of plastic. The Economist, "Farming Using artificial intelligence, agricultural robots are on the rise," 6 Feb. 2020 Skarp Laser Razor, a razor with dubious hair-removal technology, managed to get more than $4 million in pledges from interested customers before Kickstarter suspended its campaign for violating policies on working prototypes. Heather Kelly, Washington Post, "The most disappointing technologies of the decade: Face computers, space tourism and Juicero," 26 Dec. 2019 California recently funded defense contractor Northrop Grumman and wildfire-analyzing startup Technosylva to come up with prototypes that can help detect and predict the advancement of wildfires. John General, CNN, "How AI is helping spot wildfires faster," 5 Dec. 2019 This fall, smartphones with large foldable displays finally made the leap from prototype to usable product in the U.S., with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy Fold in September and the announcement this week of the new Motorola Razr. Fortune, "6 Foldable Phones That Show How the Future of Phone Design Is Unfolding," 15 Nov. 2019 SpaceX still has a lot of development work to do to get from the prototype revealed at the end of September to an orbital version of Starship, let alone one that could land on the Moon. Eric Berger, Ars Technica, "As NASA tries to land on the Moon, it has plenty of rockets to choose from," 10 Oct. 2019 Another company, JetPack Aviation, which makes a pack that looks much closer to the ones researchers toyed around with in the 1960s, is also closing in on realistic prototypes. Mike Murphy, Quartz, "We were promised jetpacks, and now we have them. So why isn’t anyone using them?," 18 July 2019 Sign up for our daily newsletter and never miss our latest and greatest stories Science This is the story of how an adorable robot went from Lego prototype to family companion. Arielle Pardes, WIRED, "The Second Coming of the Robot Pet," 1 July 2019 The White Road is a large and singular literary object, a book with no obvious prototype. Julian Bell, The New York Review of Books, "Julian Bell," 17 Jan. 2019

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.

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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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Time Traveler for prototype

Time Traveler

The first known use of prototype was in 1552

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Last Updated

22 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Prototype.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for prototype


How to pronounce prototype (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of prototype

: an original or first model of something from which other forms are copied or developed
: someone or something that has the typical qualities of a particular group, kind, etc.
: a first or early example that is used as a model for what comes later

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