Definition of alpha in English:



  • 1The first letter of the Greek alphabet (Α, α), transliterated as ‘a’.

    • ‘Her talent scarcely runs the gamut from A to alpha minus.’
    • ‘He named them using the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta.’
    • ‘It's five characters, all alphas, and probably all lower case.’
    1. 1.1as modifier Denoting the first of a series of items or categories, e.g. forms of a chemical compound.
      ‘the α and β chains of haemoglobin’
      • ‘First my head was wrapped to monitor my alpha and theta brainwaves.’
      • ‘Three additional categories approached significance at the adjusted alpha levels.’
      • ‘The log power of activity in delta, theta, alpha, sigma, and beta bandwidths was computed.’
      • ‘Results showed hypnotic trait effects on skin resistance, heart and respiratory rate as well as on EEG theta, alpha, beta and gamma relative power changes.’
      • ‘In contrast to results for sigma and delta frequencies, no strong differences between sleepy and less sleepy subjects were noted in theta, alpha, and beta ranges.’
    2. 1.2British A first-class mark given for an examination paper or piece of school or college work.
      ‘he had been awarded alpha double plus’
      • ‘That was light on the stomach, lots of nutty and fruity bits bound in a crumbly jacket, surrounded by an alpha plus brandy creme anglaise froth.’
      • ‘He added, with the devastating practicality of the true alpha double plus aesthete, that there was queer old difference between maintaining a path a hundred yards long and a maintaining a path three hundred yards long.’
      • ‘He was an alpha plus member of the Central London Hatchery.’
    3. 1.3Sociology Zoology as modifier Denoting the dominant animal or human in a particular group.
      ‘the pack is a tightly knit, highly organized group, led by an alpha wolf’
      See also alpha male
      • ‘Periodically, fights broke out between the males as they competed for the coveted role of alpha grouse.’
      • ‘This pair is monogamous although, with the death of an alpha individual, a new alpha male or female will emerge and take over as the mate.’
      • ‘This is the same type of behavior a submissive member of a wild dog pack would show to the alpha dog in that pack.’
      • ‘When groups were merged, once again, only a single alpha individual could be identified.’
      • ‘Nietzsche's alpha grandmother and two spinster aunts treated his meek, young mother like a hanger-on.’
      • ‘Conniff explains that when chimpanzees approach an alpha member, they appear to reduce their body size a bit.’
      • ‘The one bird I do find unattractive is the menacing seagull, particularly the alpha individuals who bully the others away from sources of food by craning their necks and gargling like their throat has been slit.’
      • ‘If you can eliminate the alpha animals you can disrupt the predation until a new alpha pair is established or transient pack takes over the territory.’
      • ‘For every dominant alpha individual, well endowed with strength, cleverness, and hence females, there are more who lose out, and therefore end up as resentful and unsuccessful betas, deltas, and zetas.’
      • ‘This pup should be considered the alpha dog of the litter.’
      • ‘Modern primatologists point out that an alpha animal, contrary to its reputation as solitary lord of all it surveys, is thickly enmeshed in a social webbing, dependent on the reciprocities of group life.’
      • ‘At Fauna, Anna's role was that of the "alpha chimp," the sort of head of the clan.’
      • ‘The traditional tools for observing dominance displays by alpha animals - surveillance using radio collars and the tranquilliser dart - are, unfortunately, not an option here.’
      • ‘An alpha wolf establishes his authority by biting a rival on the neck and pinning him to the ground.’
      • ‘Triangle, named for her high-peaked white brow, is the troop's alpha animal; her infant is fearless.’
      • ‘We've found that it's often a single alpha animal or pair that are preying on sheep that have moved into the pack's territory.’
      • ‘All pack animals have a lead animal, in the case of dogs it is the alpha dog.’
      • ‘An alpha leader does not use fear, punishment or brute force to achieve and maintain its position.’
      • ‘He talked about how the alpha male chimp tends to have one of two models of leadership, one being a bullying model and the other being a populist leader model.’
      • ‘For obedience training to proceed smoothly, your dog must consider you its alpha leader.’
    4. 1.4informal as modifier Denoting a person who has a dominant role or position within a particular sphere.
      ‘take turns cooking for each other if one of you is too much of an alpha chef’
      • ‘Known as the "order committee", these alpha gangsters were the sole authority because successive Guatemalan governments simply abandoned the facility.’
      • ‘He is an alpha politician, but with a beta brain.’
      • ‘Alpha moms are so determined to make a project out of everything, they are not considering or loving the child, who becomes an object of status or self-glorification.’
      • ‘Thanks to these alpha parents' first-rate genes and nonstop cocktail parties, their scions were both very good-looking and highly adept at small talk.’
      • ‘Most mothers who fulfil the alpha mom stereotype don't want to describe themselves like that.’
      • ‘He became the alpha student of the program.’
      • ‘If your party ideology is the cult of individualism, then it's no surprise they all see themselves as the alpha boss.’
      • ‘He is the alpha villain in the game.’
      • ‘The television station was launched to 10m cable subscribers in parts of America last month and will arrive in New York - supreme home of the alpha mom - at the end of June.’
      • ‘They have portrayed the company as a sort of alpha polluter, providing funds to environmentally destructive logging and mining projects all over the globe.’
      • ‘The alpha bloggers spread concepts like Typhoid Marys.’
      • ‘You give yourself the right to be the alpha developer in this space.’
      • ‘For the capital's alpha toddlers, children's charity parties have become the events to see and be seen.’
      • ‘He is now doing a complete makeover of the house of Atlanta's alpha chef.’
      • ‘Although there is no point where a formal line can be drawn, there is a subset of people with a disproportinate amount of links, traffic, and influence who are, by tradition called the alpha bloggers.’
      • ‘Finally, soaking up the deference of the others, the alpha designer leans forward, and exercising the absolute minimum of movement, grazes the lid open with the palm of his hand.’
      • ‘The unloved school swots of the 20th century have blossomed into the alpha group of the 21st.’
      • ‘It's not just mothers: alpha dads, in the form of "over-competitive soccer dads", are also to blame.’
      • ‘She has built a reputation working with alpha architects.’
      • ‘Just a few seats away, the model Kate Moss—a kind of alpha trend-setter—was wearing a black monkey fur coat over a lace miniskirt that looked like a Victorian vintage piece.’
    5. 1.5
      short for alpha test
      • ‘A new build of Longhorn, Microsoft's follow-up to XP, has leaked, and although it's still an alpha, reports of increased stability make it sound almost worth stealing.’
      • ‘We weren't asked a cent for the privilege of downloading their music - presumably once Wippit gets out of alpha, the company will begin charging.’
      • ‘As well, the Behind Enemy Lines multiplayer mode was an addition that was actually created after alpha, when we were continually testing and polishing.’
      • ‘The final release of the game is hardly better than the leaked alpha, which they said was nothing but a rough version, that needed polishing.’
      • ‘I would also like to remind everyone that the last two releases are alpha, which is why only minor changes are visible.’
    6. 1.6Astronomy followed by Latin genitive The first (typically the brightest) star in a constellation.
      ‘Alpha Orionis’
      • ‘And now, in a small nebula brimming with new lifeforms, ready and innocently waiting to see what the universe had in store for them, an Alpha lurks.’
      • ‘These alphas - named after the first letter in the Greek alphabet - are the brightest stars in their constellation, defining life as the young teen knows it.’
    7. 1.7as modifier Relating to alpha decay or alpha particles.
      ‘an alpha emitter’
      • ‘Similar damage is caused by the alpha recoil, which is a trace of the energy released during the alpha decay of uranium and thorium isotopes.’
      • ‘Helium, a light gas, is formed during radioactive alpha decay in rock minerals.’
      • ‘Gamma rays are high energy photons, often emitted together with beta or alpha radiations when the transformation has left the atom with excess energy.’
      • ‘Part of this energy is seen in the form of alpha radiation, which occurs in the process of alpha decay.’
      • ‘Among the commonly known alpha emitters are various isotopes of polonium, radium, thorium, uranium and all of the transuranium elements.’
  • 2A code word representing the letter A, used in radio communication.

    • ‘We soon learned that the alpha bravo code is a type of phonetic alphabet used by NATO.’
    • ‘He states his 3-letter personal identification code, "ABC," to which the system responds in confirmation, "Alpha, Bravo, Charlie. Is that correct?"’

  • 1A plane angle.

  • 2Angular acceleration.

  • 3Astronomy
    Right ascension.


  • alpha and omega

    • 1The beginning and the end (used by Christians as a title for Jesus).

      • ‘A range of portable items have been found bearing Christian motifs such as the chi-rho, alpha and omega, or the representation of a fish.’
      • ‘Are we willing to be the alpha and the omega rather than stand in the middle all the time?’
      • ‘He is the alpha and the omega, the principle and the end, the foundation stone and the keystone, the plenitude and the plenifier.’
      • ‘When Jesus talks about being alpha and omega, it offers the picture of someone at both ends of something, without middle ground.’
      • ‘A sign outside says in huge letters: Jesus said ‘I am the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end’.’
      1. 1.1The essence or most important features.
        ‘collective bargaining is seen as the alpha and omega of trade unionism’
        • ‘We are the alpha and the omega in seashore dining and freshly prepared gourmet seafood.’
        • ‘Why should one of the elect be bothered about table manners, if cognitive ability, without virtue or civility, is the alpha and omega of human excellence?’
        • ‘Well, I'm here to tell you that it's all bull-honky - the Marx Brothers are the alpha and the omega of silver screen comedy.’
        • ‘In opposition to this tradition, Epicurus saw earthly pleasures as the alpha and omega of life.’
        • ‘Instead, Jews and Judaism provided both the foundation of society and its hope for the future - they have become, if you will, the alpha and the omega of humanity.’
        completely, entirely, totally, fully, wholly
        View synonyms


Via Latin from Greek.