Love words? Sign up for our Word of the Day!
c.1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants. Sense of "beginning of anything" is from late 14c., often paired with omega (last letter in the Greek alphabet) as "the end." Sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. Alpha male was in use by c.1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c.1992.
alpha al·pha (āl'fə)
Symbol α The first letter of the Greek alphabet.
The first one in a series; the beginning.
The first position from a designated carbon atom in an organic molecule at which an atom or radical group may be substituted.
Characterizing the atom or radical group that is closest to the functional group of atoms in an organic molecule.
Relating to one of two or more closely related substances, as in stereoisomers.
Relating to or characterizing a polypeptide chain that is one of five types of heavy chains present in immunoglobins.