pro·​to·​type ˈprō-tə-ˌtīp How to pronounce prototype (audio)
: an original model on which something is patterned : archetype
: an individual that exhibits the essential features of a later type
: a standard or typical example
: 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 There’s also a showcase of its landmark innovations, from the idea of a sneaker given additional bounce thanks to garden hose segments to prototypes and first finished products. Lily Templeton, WWD, 12 July 2024 The film is now seen as the prototype for sleek, stylish action-thrillers. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, 12 July 2024 By Dana Hull and Ed Ludlow / BLOOMBERG July 11, 2024 5:04 PM EDT Tesla Inc. is postponing its planned robotaxi unveiling to October to allow teams working on the project more time to build additional prototypes, according to people familiar with the decision. Dana Hull and Ed Ludlow / Bloomberg, TIME, 11 July 2024 For the new test flight, Joby took a pre-production prototype of one of its battery-electric aircraft and outfitted it with a liquid hydrogen fuel tank and fuel system. Mack Degeurin, Popular Science, 11 July 2024 See all Example Sentences for prototype 

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

Word History


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

First Known Use

1552, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of prototype was in 1552


Dictionary Entries Near prototype

Cite this Entry

“Prototype.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Jul. 2024.

Kids Definition


pro·​to·​type ˈprōt-ə-ˌtīp How to pronounce prototype (audio)
: an original model on which something is patterned

More from Merriam-Webster on prototype

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