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  1. the original or model on which something is based or formed.
  2. someone or something that serves to illustrate the typical qualities of a class; model; exemplar: She is the prototype of a student activist.
  3. something analogous to another thing of a later period: a Renaissance prototype of our modern public housing.
  4. Biology. an archetype; a primitive form regarded as the basis of a group.
verb (used with object), pro·to·typed, pro·to·typ·ing.
  1. to create the prototype or an experimental model of: to prototype a solar-power car.

Origin of prototype

1595–1605; < New Latin prōtotypon < Greek prōtótypon, noun use of neuter of prōtótypos original. See proto-, type
Related formspro·to·typ·al, pro·to·typ·i·cal [proh-tuh-tip-i-kuh l] /ˌproʊ təˈtɪp ɪ kəl/, pro·to·typ·ic, adjectivepro·to·typ·i·cal·ly, adverb
Can be confusedarchetype prototype


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1. pattern.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for prototypical


  1. one of the first units manufactured of a product, which is tested so that the design can be changed if necessary before the product is manufactured commercially
  2. a person or thing that serves as an example of a type
  3. biology the ancestral or primitive form of a species or other group; an archetype
Derived Formsprototypal, prototypic (ˌprəʊtəˈtɪpɪk) or prototypical, adjective
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for prototypical


1640s, from prototype + -ical.



c.1600, from French prototype (16c.) and directly from Medieval Latin prototypus "original, primitive," from Greek prototypon "a first or primitive form," noun use of neuter singular of prototypos "original, primitive," from protos "first" (see proto-) + typos "impression, mold, pattern" (see type (n.)). In English from 1590s as prototypon.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

prototypical in Medicine


  1. A primitive or ancestral form or species.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.