The Greek name traditionally is interpreted as "The Bearer (of the Heavens)," from a-, copulative prefix (see a- (3)), + stem of tlenai "to bear," from PIE root *tele- "to lift, support, weigh." But Beekes compares Berber adrar "mountain" and finds it plausible that the Greek name is a "folk-etymological reshaping" of this. Mount Atlas, in Mauritania, was important in Greek cosmology as a support of the heavens.
"collection of maps in a volume," 1636, first in the title of the English translation of "Atlas, sive cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi" (1585) by Flemish geographer Gerhardus Mercator, who might have been the first to use this word in this way. A picture of the Titan Atlas holding up the world appeared on the frontispiece of this and other early map collections.
"carved, robed female figure used as a column," 1560s, from French cariatide, from Latin caryatides, from Greek Karyatides (singular Karyatis) "priestesses of Artemis at Caryae" (Greek Karyai), a town in Laconia where dance festivals were held in Artemis' temple. Male figures in a like situation are Atlantes, plural of Atlas. Related: Caryatic.
also called Laodice, a daughter of Agamemnon and Clytaemnestra, the accomplice of her brother Orestes in the murder of their mother, from Greek Ēlektra, literally "shining, bright," related to ēlektōr "the beaming sun" and perhaps to ēlektron "amber." Especially in psychological Electra complex (1913, Jung) in reference to a daughter who feels attraction toward her father and hostility to her mother. Also the name of a daughter of Atlas, and as such a name of one of the Pleiades.
Roman goddess of fertility, Latin Maia, literally "she who brings increase," from PIE *mag-ya- "she who is great" (suffixed form of root *meg- "great"). Maia, one of the Pleiades, is from Greek Maia, daughter of Atlas, mother of Hermes, literally "mother, good mother, dame; foster-mother, nurse, midwife," said by Watkins to be from infant babbling (see mamma). The maiasaura dinosaur is so called from 1979, in reference to the fossil preservation of its nesting colonies.
c. 1300, from Latin alpha, from Greek alpha, from Hebrew or Phoenician aleph (see aleph). The Greeks added -a because Greek words cannot end in most consonants.
The sense of "beginning" of anything is from late 14c., and in this it is often paired with omega (the last letter in the Greek alphabet, representing "the end"). The sense of "first in a sequence" is from 1620s. In astronomy, the designation of the brightest star of each constellation (the use of Greek letters in star names began with Bayer's atlas in 1603). Alpha male was in use by c. 1960 among scientists studying animals; applied to humans in society from c. 1992.