Originally, it was used for social outcasts, who were not as involved in the social order as other specimens, but managed to thrive on their own.
Over time, however, with the inclusion of the Sigma Male in the Social Hierarchy Model, “Omega Males” started to be seen as inferior and subservient to even Beta Males, placing them at the bottom of the social hierarchy.
“Omega Males” were originally defined to be less aggressive than Alphas, but not as subservient as Betas. They were also described to set their own goals and claim their own success. In this regard, they are very reminiscent of the Sigma Male, a popular trend and meme among men online, which arguably developped from the archetype of the “Omega Male.”
Alpha, Beta, Omega are greek letters, usually assigned to animals in a type of hierarchy, often a social hierarchy.
This classification originates from the 1980’s, specifically from the 1982 book of Frans de Waal, titled Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes. It is here, de Waal classified members of a species by terms like Alpha Male and Alpha Female for the first time, focusing on their position in the social hierarchy. His work also highlighted parallels among human behaviors in social hierarchy.
Alpha Males were described as the dominant specimens, who dictated the rules of the group, while Beta Males were defined as the follower type, who obey their superiors.
“Omega Male” was created as a supplementary category for individuals, who fit neither of the two groups. The expression was later hijacked by people who felt like they were outcasts and didn’t belong in any part of society.
Online communities were already surfacing in the 2000s, discussing their role as outcasts in society. A prime example for this is the message board 4chan, where marginalized people united and even dictated the trends of the internet.
Discussions about “Omega Males” and other such ideas were already present on message boards and forums by the late 2000s, however, this was taken to a new level in May 2010, when a Vox Day blog post made an effort at explaining the characteristics of the Sigma Male.
This Sigma Male grew to depose “Omega Male” from the idealized “Lone Wolf” trope, and take its place.
During the 2010s, the Sigma Male meme became more and more popular among various online communities, especially young men, and teens, as well as Incels.
This development resulted in a slow decay in the use of “Omega Male”, which is more and more rarely encountered online.