[ al-pak-uh ]
/ ælˈpæk ə /
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a domesticated South American ruminant, Lama pacos, having long, soft, silky fleece, related to the llama and believed to be a variety of the guanaco.
the fleece of this animal.
a fabric or yarn made of it.
a glossy, commonly black woolen fabric with cotton warp.
a crepe fabric made of rayon and acetate yarn in imitation of alpaca wool cloth.
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Origin of alpaca

1805–15; <Spanish <Aymara allpaqa
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What’s the difference between alpacas and llamas?

Alpacas and llamas are closely-related animals, and they look similar, but they are two different species.

They have a lot in common. Both the alpaca and the llama are thought to be domesticated varieties of the wild South American animal known as the guanaco. They are both ruminant animals—hoofed, four-legged mammals that eat grass and other plants. And they both belong to the genus Lama and to the family that also includes camels.

So how are they different?

Alpacas are smaller, with shorter ears. They are much fluffier than llamas, with fuzzy “bangs” that can partly hide their eyes. Their coats are very soft and silky, and they’re usually raised for their fleece, which is used to make very soft yarn or fabric.

Llamas are bigger. They’re known for their strength, endurance, and high thirst tolerance. For this reason, they’re often used as work animals to carry things over long distances.

So, the best way to tell the difference is by size and fluffiness. If it looks big and strong, like it can carry a lot of stuff, it’s probably a llama. If it’s smaller and fluffier, and its fleece looks like it could be used to make really soft mittens, it’s probably an alpaca.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between alpacas and llamas.

Quiz yourself on alpacas vs. llamas!

True or False? 

Alpacas and llamas are completely unrelated. 

How to use alpaca in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for alpaca (1 of 2)

/ (ælˈpækə) /

a domesticated cud-chewing artiodactyl mammal, Lama pacos, closely related to the llama and native to South America: family Camelidae. Its dark shaggy hair is a source of wool
the cloth made from the wool of this animal
a glossy fabric simulating this, used for linings, etc

Word Origin for alpaca

C18: via Spanish from Aymara allpaca

British Dictionary definitions for alpaca (2 of 2)


sometimes alpacca

/ (ælˈpækə) /

a type of nickel silver used in jewellery

Word Origin for alpaca

of uncertain origin
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