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 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 The pieces include the massive Super Heavy booster topped with the SN 20, as in Serial Number 20, version of the Starship prototype. Richard Tribou,, 10 Feb. 2022 Instead of showing off any sort of prototype, a person in a robot suit walked stiffly on stage and proceeded to dance, spin and pretend to jump rope. Matt Mcfarland, CNN, 28 Jan. 2022 The wheels of a rover prototype have traversed that simulated soil, practice for a 2022 debut on the moon. Sarah Matusek, The Christian Science Monitor, 7 Dec. 2021 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

11 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Prototype.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 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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