pro·​to·​type | \ˈprō-tə-ˌtīp \

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

SpaceX wants to launch around 4,000 satellites for the same purpose; its prototypes are doing well. Troy Farah, Discover Magazine, "The Web, Worldwide," 19 Oct. 2018 Manufacturers are looking to the eyewear company Warby Parker as the prototype for selling cooking tools directly to the consumer. Florence Fabricant, The Seattle Times, "8 great kitchen tools you didn’t know you needed," 29 Aug. 2018 The report's reemergence is perfectly timed: Trump headed to California Tuesday morning to get his first up-close look at eight prototypes for a border wall, his signature campaign promise. Kaila White, azcentral, "Trump tweets anti-immigrant study, says, 'Wall will pay for itself'," 13 Mar. 2018 A few years ago, Mesko, the former Michigan punter who played four seasons in the NFL, was living in New York with his wife while working on the prototype for a protective device that attaches to football helmets. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, "Ex-Michigan P Zoltan Mesko out to make football helmets safer at Super Bowl LII," 2 Feb. 2018 The president and CEO of University Health System, George B. Hernández Jr., said the center was built as a prototype for future University health care centers. Vincent T. Davis, San Antonio Express-News, "New health care center opens on East Side," 22 Jan. 2018 With the prototype for their comic collectible near completion, the group had a product to pitch and lined up a meeting with Fink. Jordan Diaz, Billboard, "Black Eyed Peas Talk Teaming Up With Marvel for 'Masters of the Sun' Graphic Novel & Virtual Reality's Frontier: Exclusive Interview," 18 Jan. 2018 In one room, the shelves were filled with prototypes for collaborations: petits objets for Louis Vuitton; rugs that looked like latticework for La Manufacture Cogolin. Jane Mayer, The New Yorker, "India Mahdavi, Virtuoso of Color," 20 Dec. 2017 The prototype, just being unveiled, started with a 2018 Nissan GT-R NISMO, which was then revamped by Italdesign. Chris Woodyard, USA TODAY, "Nissan injects Italian design into sports car concept, creating GT-R50," 29 June 2018

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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Statistics for prototype

Last Updated

15 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for prototype

The first known use of prototype was in 1552

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More Definitions for prototype



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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Comments on prototype

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


by force of circumstances

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