(1) An original model on which something is patterned. (2) A first, full-scale, usually working version of a new type or design.
There was great excitement when, after years of top-secret development, the prototype of the new Stealth bomber first took to the skies.
A prototype is someone or something that serves as a model or inspiration. A successful fund-raising campaign can serve as a prototype for future campaigns. The legendary Robin Hood, the prototypical kindhearted, honorable outlaw, has been the inspiration for countless other romantic heroes. For over a century Vincent Van Gogh has been the prototype of the brilliant, tortured artist who is unappreciated in his own time.