Definition of alpha in English:



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

    • ‘He named them using the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta.’
    • ‘Her talent scarcely runs the gamut from A to alpha minus.’
    • ‘It's five characters, all alphas, and probably all lower case.’
    1. 1.1[as modifier]Denoting the first of a series of items or categories, e.g., forms of a chemical compound.
      ‘alpha interferon’
      ‘the α and β chains of hemoglobin’
      • ‘First my head was wrapped to monitor my alpha and theta brainwaves.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Three additional categories approached significance at the adjusted alpha levels.’
    2. 1.2Sociology 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
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘When groups were merged, once again, only a single alpha individual could be identified.’
      • ‘This pup should be considered the alpha dog of the litter.’
      • ‘Nietzsche's alpha grandmother and two spinster aunts treated his meek, young mother like a hanger-on.’
      • ‘Periodically, fights broke out between the males as they competed for the coveted role of alpha grouse.’
      • ‘An alpha wolf establishes his authority by biting a rival on the neck and pinning him to the ground.’
      • ‘An alpha leader does not use fear, punishment or brute force to achieve and maintain its position.’
      • ‘At Fauna, Anna's role was that of the "alpha chimp," the sort of head of the clan.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The traditional tools for observing dominance displays by alpha animals - surveillance using radio collars and the tranquilliser dart - are, unfortunately, not an option here.’
      • ‘This is the same type of behavior a submissive member of a wild dog pack would show to the alpha dog in that pack.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Triangle, named for her high-peaked white brow, is the troop's alpha animal; her infant is fearless.’
      • ‘Conniff explains that when chimpanzees approach an alpha member, they appear to reduce their body size a bit.’
      • ‘For obedience training to proceed smoothly, your dog must consider you its alpha leader.’
    3. 1.3informal [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’
      • ‘He is the alpha villain in the game.’
      • ‘You give yourself the right to be the alpha developer in this space.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The alpha bloggers spread concepts like Typhoid Marys.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They have portrayed the company as a sort of alpha polluter, providing funds to environmentally destructive logging and mining projects all over the globe.’
      • ‘He became the alpha student of the program.’
      • ‘Known as the "order committee", these alpha gangsters were the sole authority because successive Guatemalan governments simply abandoned the facility.’
      • ‘He is now doing a complete makeover of the house of Atlanta's alpha chef.’
      • ‘The unloved school swots of the 20th century have blossomed into the alpha group of the 21st.’
      • ‘Most mothers who fulfil the alpha mom stereotype don't want to describe themselves like that.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘For the capital's alpha toddlers, children's charity parties have become the events to see and be seen.’
      • ‘If your party ideology is the cult of individualism, then it's no surprise they all see themselves as the alpha boss.’
      • ‘He is an alpha politician, but with a beta brain.’
    4. 1.4
      short for alpha test
      • ‘I would also like to remind everyone that the last two releases are alpha, which is why only minor changes are visible.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘As well, the Behind Enemy Lines multiplayer mode was an addition that was actually created after alpha, when we were continually testing and polishing.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
    5. 1.5[followed by Latin genitive]The first (typically the brightest) star in a constellation.
      ‘Alpha Centauri’
      • ‘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.’
    6. 1.6[as modifier]Relating to alpha decay or alpha particles.
      ‘an alpha emitter’
      • ‘Gamma rays are high energy photons, often emitted together with beta or alpha radiations when the transformation has left the atom with excess energy.’
      • ‘Among the commonly known alpha emitters are various isotopes of polonium, radium, thorium, uranium and all of the transuranium elements.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Part of this energy is seen in the form of alpha radiation, which occurs in the process of alpha decay.’
      • ‘Helium, a light gas, is formed during radioactive alpha decay in rock minerals.’
  • 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.


From Semitic; cf. Phoenician ’ alp, lit. ox and Hebrew ’ aleph aleph.