or alpha male [al-fuh] or [al-fuh meyl]
What does alpha mean?
Alpha refers to a dominant person or their behavior, especially with respect to socially aggressive, hyper-masculine men. Some dudebros see alpha as a compliment and aspiration. Others people see right into the small, sad, insecure hearts of the trying-too-hard alpha.
Examples of alpha
Where does alpha come from?
Alpha is the first letter in the Greek alphabet, its privileged position lending itself as a metaphor for primacy or superiority since at least the 1300s in English.
By the 1870s, scientists were using the term alpha male to refer to the most dominant male animal in a group—like an alpha wolf, who achieves top-dog status through aggressive behavior. By the 1970s, scientists extended alpha to human behavior, describing men who, through various forms of social power, acquire wealth, prestige, sexual partners, and other resources valued by their peers.
The alpha male is that type: admired in the suave cool of James Bond, parodied in the manic Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) in the 2000 film American Psycho, feared in Daniel Day Lewis as Daniel Plainview in the 2007 There Will Be Blood, far-too-fawned-over in Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden in the 1999 bro-classic Fight Club, and loved-and-hated in John Hamm’s Don Draper from the Mad Men TV series in the 2000s.
By the 2010s, the sense of alpha showed some narrowing on the internet, shifting from a male who achieved success and status in general to a male who could easily get a lot of girls in bed or who liked sports and was bro-ish. The manosphere also calls these alphas bluepilled normalfags.
On so-called “green-text stories” on 4chan, users ironically mocked men as alpha as fuck in fictional accounts of men trying to be manly but failing spectacularly.
Elsewhere in the dark, masculinist corners of the internet, soyboys and cucks, derogatory slang for effeminate men, usually perceived as liberals, were called beta male (submissive, sexually weak, with beta the second letter of the Greek alphabet). Yet others online sought out omega male role models (omega being the last letter), who find success outside of conventional social hierarchies.
As a description for a man, alpha became a term sometimes embraced and aspired to and other times challenged. Meanwhile in the 2000s, alpha female emerged as a positive term for powerful, successful women, though not without intimidating plenty men.
Who uses alpha?
Many dudes genuinely aspire to alpha status, following checklists and guides to achieve manliness in everything from cologne to body language. Basically, so they (think they) can get laid. (Guys, get woke: It’s about respectful confidence, not aggressive cockiness.)
Indiana Jones was alpha as fuck✊🏼
— Sancho (@Parrott2Hung) June 21, 2018
Other times, the alpha male is the butt of popular jokes, like the ludicrously macho President Camacho (Terry Crews) or Dos Equis’ ridiculously smooth Most Interesting Man in the World.
The term is also still used ironically to mock men who wrongly think themselves to be an alpha male …. but are actually just douchebags.
And then there’s the incel community …
When describing women, alpha usually a positive label—except when men use it to put down women because they can’t handle them being successful.
This is not meant to be a formal definition of alpha like most terms we define on Dictionary.com, but is rather an informal word summary that hopefully touches upon the key aspects of the meaning and usage of alpha that will help our users expand their word mastery.