Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. The first letter of the Greek alphabet. See Table at alphabet.
  • n. The first one; the beginning.
  • n. Chemistry The first position from a designated carbon atom in an organic molecule at which an atom or radical may be substituted.
  • n. Astronomy The brightest or main star in a constellation.
  • n. The mathematical estimate of the return on a security when the return on the market as a whole is zero. Alpha is derived from a in the formula Ri = a + bRm, which measures the return on a security (Ri) for a given return on the market (Rm) where b is beta.
  • adj. Being the highest ranked or most dominant individual of one's sex. Used of social animals: the alpha female of the wolf pack.
  • adj. Chemistry Closest to the functional group of atoms in an organic molecule.
  • adj. Alphabetical.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The name of the first letter of the Greek alphabet (Α,  α), followed by beta. In the Latin alphabet it is the predecessor to A.
  • n. Latin alpha
  • n. The name of the symbols Α and α used in science and mathematics, often interchangeable with the symbols when used as a prefix.
  • n. The return of a given asset or portfolio adjusted for systematic risk.
  • n. An alpha male.
  • n. Alphabet.
  • adj. Designates the first in an order of precedence.
  • adj. associated with the alpha male/female archetype.
  • adj. Designates the brightest star in a constellation.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. The first letter in the Greek alphabet, answering to A, and hence used to denote the beginning.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The first letter in the Greek alphabet (A, α), answering to A.
  • n. The first; the beginning: as in the phrase “alpha and omega,” the beginning and the end, the first and the last, omega being the last letter of the Greek alphabet.
  • n. As a classifier: In astronomy, the chief star of a constellation. In chem., the first of two or more isomerous modifications of the same organic compound, as alpha-naphthol, in distinction from beta-naphthol.
  • n. In natural history, the first subspecies, etc.
  • n. [capitalized] The name given by Carl Neumann, the mathematical physicist, to a supposed body to which all motion, especially motion of rotation, is relative.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. first in order of importance
  • n. the beginning of a series or sequence
  • adj. early testing stage of a software or hardware product
  • n. the 1st letter of the Greek alphabet

Etymologies

Greek, of Phoenician origin; see אlp in Semitic roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the Ancient Greek ἄλφα (alpha), the first letter of the Greek alphabet, from the Phoenician aleph. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • If one of the four α loci is affected, alpha minor or alpha+ thalassemia trait or alpha thalassemia trait, type 2 results and there is minimal effect.

    Citizendium, the Citizens' Compendium - Recent changes [en]

  • Zandl invented the term alpha consumer, and she's the closest thing the trend business has to a founder.

    TIME.com: Top Stories

  • The term alpha female originated in my field of animal behavior, but has acquired new meaning.

    Frans de Waal: Alpha Females I Have Known

  • What you can do is while you are doing your pre - or post - Christmas shopping, drop by your local bookstore and pick up a dictionary and look up the term alpha or beta particles.

    Say No to the Divine Strake

  • The term alpha in a nutshell it used to measure risk adjusted returns.

    The Wall Street Examiner

  • Mech explains that the term alpha is rarely used today by wolf biologists.

    The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

  • "" I like to bring myself into a state that I call alpha, which is tranquillity, '' he says.

    Alien Invasion!

  • Though surrounded at Cambridge by all the excitement generated by Thomson's discovery of the electron in 1897, Rutherford opted to investigate radioactivity and soon found that there were two distinct types of radiation emitted from uranium, which he called alpha and beta, before a third was discovered, called gamma rays.

    The Independent - Frontpage RSS Feed

  • No, I've always been drawn to men who could teach me things I didn't know, what I call alpha men, leaders in their own fields.

    Telegraph.co.uk - Telegraph online, Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph

  • Fonda also spoke to "Nightline" about what she has taken away from her three marriages to what she calls "alpha men," particularly her third husband, Ted Turner, with whom she remains friends.

    ABC News: Top Stories

Comments

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  • Yep, I love me fatty acids.

    March 8, 2011

  • first, Our LORD is the Alpha and Omega.

    March 7, 2011

  • Derived from the Phoenician letter Aleph, the Greek alpha was the first in their alphabet. Alpha is usually used to mean 'first'. In Phoenician, alpha meant 'ox'. (uppercase Α, lowercase α)

    June 23, 2008