alpha

1 of 2

noun

al·​pha ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio)
plural alphas
1
: the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet see Alphabet Table
2
a
: something that is first : beginning compare omega see also alpha and omega
b
: something or someone designated with the name alpha or the Greek letter α especially denoting the first in position, order, or class
3
4
5
: the first version of a product (such as a computer program) that is being developed and tested
usually used before another noun
alpha versions
alpha testing
also : a stage of product development in which alpha prototypes are released
a product that is available in alpha
compare beta
6
: a socially dominant person or animal
Mike is the ringleader, the alpha of the group. Tom is his wingman …Jason Blake
[Kamala] Harris came with a clear plan, was well prepared, and executed perfectly. The fact that she was willing to take on Biden, the front-runner, signaled that she was the alpha on the stage.Philip Klein
The rest of the animals hold positions in the pecking order below the alphas and respect their leadership roles, although they may challenge other wolves (even alphas) to raise their rank.C. C. Holland

alpha

2 of 2

adjective

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
3

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
Noun
In addition to numbered sizing, some brands carry alpha sizes with plus sizes ranging from XL through 6XL and greater. Jessie Quinn, Peoplemag, 12 Mar. 2024 Instead, this baby sound machine features eight soundtracks, like calming rain, instrumental, and a heartbeat, with subtle acoustic cues embedded in the background to help promote alpha and delta waves in sleep and language development. Maya Polton, Parents, 29 Mar. 2024 So when these two alpha predators meet, there’s a tussle that leaves tons of wreckage in their wake. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 28 Mar. 2024 In recent months, the alphas have emerged as TikTok’s newest supervillain, a designation that has followed them into mainstream media. Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times, 22 Mar. 2024 Infused with rice bran water and alpha arbutin, this serum works to hydrate the skin and reduce melanin production. Alyssa Brascia, Peoplemag, 3 Feb. 2024 Once again, an alpha brute in the form of Knox (Conor McGregor) is brought in to take the hero down. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 9 Mar. 2024 Will Ferrari’s gambit to hire two alpha drivers pay off or end in tears? Sahil Kapur, NBC News, 25 Feb. 2024 That’s what the Bearcats are missing – an alpha dog, a guy like Steve Logan, Sean Kilpatrick and Jarron Cumberland who takes control in the closing minutes of a tight game and refuses to let his team lose. Jason Williams, The Enquirer, 31 Jan. 2024
Adjective
The largest juvenile took on the alpha role and led the charge against the intruder. Laura Baisas, Popular Science, 1 Feb. 2024 But higher temperatures reduce alpha acid production in those cones. Matt Simon, WIRED, 16 Oct. 2023 The industry has been aware of the impact of climate change on alpha acid production and crop yield for decades, and adaptation is well underway, Forster said. Bill Morris, Discover Magazine, 27 Dec. 2023 The feature is in alpha or pre-alpha testing, according to the blog. Chris Smith, BGR, 25 Oct. 2021 After years of being the alpha moneymakers in finance, they are being eclipsed by top lawyers who are pulling in annual salaries of $3 million or more. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune Crypto, 26 June 2023 First shown off in 2019, the highly unconventional vehicle has apparently now progressed into alpha status, Musk said. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 20 Apr. 2023 If that's your primary concern, get straight to the point with this serum that contains alpha arbutin, which specifically addresses pigmentation that's been caused by sun exposure. Neha Tandon, womenshealthmag.com, 1 May 2023 There is no cure for alpha-gal syndrome. Jocelyn Solis-Moreira, Popular Science, 27 Mar. 2023

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

Word History

Etymology

Noun

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

Adjective

(sense 2) from attributive use of alpha entry 1; (sense 3) by shortening

First Known Use

Noun

12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of alpha was in the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near alpha

Cite this Entry

“Alpha.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/alpha. Accessed 20 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

alpha

noun
al·​pha
ˈal-fə
1
: the first letter of the Greek alphabet
A or α
2
: something that is first : beginning

Medical Definition

alpha

1 of 2 noun
al·​pha ˈal-fə How to pronounce alpha (audio)
1
: the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet
symbol Α or α
2
3

alpha

2 of 2 adjective
variants or α-
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

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