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.

Example Sentences

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 three founders put together their first prototype in 2008 and launched the company in 2010, helping Dutch greenhouse and indoor farmers increase yields with LED lights even when the technology was in its infancy. Laura Reiley, Washington Post, 21 Nov. 2022 Robinson got the bag patented and found a local textile manufacturing company to produce her prototype. La Risa R. Lynch, Journal Sentinel, 18 Nov. 2022 Interior designers placing virtual couches or throw rugs in a real room or engineers envisioning their latest prototype on the workroom floor might welcome the feature. Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, 28 Oct. 2022 As word about the technology spread around Silicon Valley about its 2014 prototype, Mark Zuckerberg sensed an opportunity and bought the company for a cool $2 billion. Andrew R. Chow, Time, 27 Oct. 2022 Gemma becomes the guardian of her orphaned 8-year-old niece Cady and decides to pair her M3GAN prototype with Cady to keep her company — leading to deadly outcomes. Tommy Mcardle, Peoplemag, 11 Oct. 2022 Management indicated that the company plans to generate revenue in 2023, with Atlis already having produced its first battery cell and its first XT truck prototype. Russ Wiles, The Arizona Republic, 28 Sep. 2022 An engineer shares his prototype for a chip implant that might restore sight to those with optic nerve damage. Sheri Linden, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 Sep. 2022 Some startups are trying to solve this problem by offering a smartphone app associated with their OTC prototype to approximate the audiologist experience. Wired, 18 Aug. 2022 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.

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 1 Dec. 2022.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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