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

This fueled speculation that the object could be a prototype kamikaze-style sat killer. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "Space Junk Could Provide a Perfect Hiding Spot for Tiny Spy Satellites," 30 Nov. 2018 Mothers are the prototype of womanhood for daughters. Tia Williams, Glamour, "Dear Black Moms, It's on Us to Dismantle What 'Good Hair' Means for Our Daughters," 24 Sep. 2018 Even in it's first iteration, the prototype is already pretty close to Grande's galaxy bath. Macaela Mackenzie, Allure, "Lush Cosmetics Teases Ariana Grande-Inspired Bath Bomb for "God Is a Woman" Music Video," 18 July 2018 The home was not a prototype of anything Philips actually intended to manufacture. Felix Salmon, WIRED, "The Creepy Rise of Real Companies Spawning Fictional Design," 30 May 2018 The federal seed money is aimed at filling a gap that the private sector generally doesn’t: the difficult period of applied research, when the science is proven but the prototype is not yet built. Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor, "Even in Trump era, green energy innovation is sparking, not sputtering," 27 Apr. 2018 Joe Burrow and Tate Martell are dual-threat quarterbacks, which is the prototype for what Ohio State's quarterbacks have been in Meyer's offense. Tim Bielik,, "Resetting Ohio State's 2019 quarterback board after four-star prospect Sam Howell commits to Florida State," 10 Apr. 2018 Starting this year, the firm intends to sell up to 24 Signature-type trucks, for which our Matte Dune Beige test example is an early prototype. Michael Simari, Car and Driver, "Time Is Money: We Test a $200K 1981 Toyota Land Cruiser," 15 Feb. 2018 This 1922 copy, part of the collection of American mineralogist George F. Kunz (the stone Kunzite has him to thank for its discovery and its name) is seen as a prototype for the official 1925 Fersman volumes I had been invited to see. Stellene Volandes, Town & Country, "Inside the Enduring Mystery of What Happened to Russia's Imperial Jewelry," 1 Nov. 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

11 Jan 2019

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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).


a complex dispute or argument

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