al·​pha | \ ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio) \

Definition of alpha

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet — see Alphabet Table
2 : something that is first : beginning
5 : the first version of a product (such as a computer program) that is being developed and tested usually used before another noun alpha versionsalpha testing also : a stage of product development in which alpha prototypes are released a product that is available in alpha — compare beta



Definition of alpha (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : closest in the structure of an organic molecule to a particular group or atom symbol α α-substitution
2 : socially dominant especially in a group of animals an alpha male

Examples of alpha in a Sentence

Noun money is not the alpha and omega—the beginning and end—of life's purpose
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective These guys were the alphas of an extremely un-alpha scene. Martin Fritz Huber, Outside Online, 8 June 2020 Definitely not the style of my alpha husband, who would enter purposefully with supplies or advice: That’s not the right tool. Amy Doyle, New York Times, 13 Mar. 2020 Bryant and O’Neal had an inevitable falling-out: not even L.A.’s sprawl could contain those two alpha egos. Sean Gregory, Time, 30 Jan. 2020 Most have stood apart from their football-playing peers for years, and their alpha personalities often make for an interesting mix in the locker room. Dave Birkett, Detroit Free Press, 18 Oct. 2019 The new game will likely arrive sometime next year, and is now in alpha testing. Eric Adams, Wired, 15 Dec. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'alpha.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of alpha


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for alpha


Middle English, from Latin, from Greek, of Semitic origin; akin to Hebrew āleph aleph

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Time Traveler for alpha

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The first known use of alpha was in the 13th century

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Cite this Entry

“Alpha.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 27 Jun. 2022.

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More Definitions for alpha


al·​pha | \ ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio) \

Medical Definition of alpha

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet symbol Α or α


variants: or α-

Medical Definition of alpha (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of or relating to one of two or more closely related chemical substances the alpha chain of hemoglobin α-yohimbine used somewhat arbitrarily to specify ordinal relationship or a particular physical form, especially one that is allotropic, isomeric, stereoisomeric, or sometimes polymeric (as in α-D-glucose)
2 : closest in position in the structure of an organic molecule to a particular group or atom also : occurring at or having a structure characterized by such a position α-substitution

More from Merriam-Webster on alpha

Britannica English: Translation of alpha for Arabic Speakers


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