Alpha Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

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We’ve all heard of the word alpha. There are a lot of uses for this word, and it has been an important part of dozens of languages worldwide, including English. 

The word alpha has several different definitions, and it’s important to understand them so that you don’t have to be confused whenever the word is used. You can also use this word for yourself and expand your vocabulary. 

What Is the Meaning of Alpha?

The word alpha (pronounced ælfə or ˈælfə) has more meanings than you might think. Thankful, they’re all relatively simple to understand. Once you see them, you’ll be able to use them easily in the appropriate contexts. Here are definitions of the word alpha: 

  • The first letter of the Greek alphabet: A, α
  • A version of software that is in its first stages of development
  • A person who is strong and likes to be in authority over other people

All of the definitions of the word center around the idea of the Greek character alpha. Because alpha is the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet, it has been used to mean something that is the first or foremost in a group. It’s also used in denoting the letter A in English.

Alpha can be used as an adjective to describe a version of a software or video game that is the first draft of the finished product. The alpha version is a somewhat completed version that likely has many bugs to work out. After an extensive testing period, the program will go back into development to refine it to make a beta version — and the list goes on. 

A person who is an alpha likes to be in charge. You may have heard the phrase alpha male, which is a male who is dominant, strong, and “the leader of the pack.” This idea comes from wolves. They travel in packs and pick an alpha male to be in charge of the group. 

Alpha Male

One of the most common uses of the phrase in casual conversation now is the phrase alpha male. This idea of the alpha male has been a cultural phenomenon over the past few decades. 

The alpha male movement is centered around the idea of traditional masculinity. The movement values strength, leadership, and being able to protect your group of people. Alpha males have come under fire for being sexist and (at times) abusive. 

Where Did the Word Alpha Come From?

As you might have expected, the word alpha comes from Greek. But many people don’t know that the letter did not originate from the Greek language. The Greek alphabet, and the letter alpha, were adopted by the Greeks in about 800 century BCE from the Phonecians. 

The first letter of the Phoenician alphabet was pronounced slightly differently, however. It had the same character, but it was called aleph. Aleph gave rise to the Greek alpha, and Latin also used the word alpha. It was from Latin that the word transferred into English. 

During the writing of the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, a popular phrase was coined “alpha and omega,” when Jesus said himself to be the “alpha and omega, beginning and the end.” A few centuries later, in the 1600s, this popular phrase gave rise to the idea that the alpha was the first thing in a sequence. 

Astronomers were the first to do this when they decided that alpha designates the first star or brightest star in a constellation. 

It wasn’t until the 1960s that the idea of the alpha male in the animal kingdom came about. Scientists observed that wolves and other animals had a dominant male leader that would earn his title by proving himself to be the strongest in a group of animals. 

But people didn’t use the term alpha male to describe humans until the 1990s. But now, this usage is one of the more popular definitions invoked. 

What Are Some Examples of the Word Alpha in a Sentence?

Seeing a word in context can help cement its definition in our minds and explain how you can use it in your own life. Here are some example sentences, including the word alpha:

I felt pretty confident about the software, but the alpha testing proved that we still had a lot of work to do. 

The license plate number is BAS-741. That’s beta, alpha, sigma, seven, four, one. 

My boss likes to think he’s a real alpha male, but I think he’s overcompensating with a dominance hierarchy for lack of confidence that he’s doing a good job. 

I love Sam. She’s a rockstar alpha female that gets the job done.

It was emitting alpha particles and a whole bunch of radiation.

I got to look at some photos of the Alpha Centauri star system, which was beautiful.

I need to learn how to use the alpha coefficient in my investment calculations to know if my mutual fund is performing above the benchmark.  

Jeremy is the prime example of alpha male behavior, with incredible confidence, discipline, and leadership skills. 

What Are the Synonyms of the Word Alpha?

Here are some synonyms of the word alpha that you might find in a thesaurus.

  • First 
  • Start
  • Beginning
  • Initial

What Are its Antonyms?

And here are some antonyms for the word alpha.

  • End
  • Conclusion
  • Omega

The Word Alpha

Today’s word of the day was alpha. Now that you’ve reached the end of this short guide, we hope you have a solid understanding of the word alpha, its definitions, its etymology, and how to use it in your writing and conversation.


ALPHA | Cambridge English Dictionary 

ALPHA | Meaning & Definition for UK English | Lexico

The Greek Alphabet | University of California Santa Cruz