Most Helpful Guy
I think the concept originally came from zoology. They used the terms alpha, beta and omega to classify male animals (particularly primates) and their behaviour and role in tribes and societies.
I suppose it depends on the species, I don't really know much about animal behaviour, but the term alpha is used to apply to the dominant male of a tribe who gets first access to food, sex with any female and social power. Beta males are one rung down on the social ladder that get access to these things through the approval of or alliance with the alpha. Omegas are the lowest class who are subordinate to everyone and expected to stay that way.
It was probably the pick-up artist community that popularized a bastardized version of this classification for humans. The reasoning being that humans are, of course, animals. We are the descendants of primates so by imitating the behaviours and characteristics of a dominant, alpha primate, you can be more attractive to females.
The way the term "beta" is used now corresponds more to the omega males of zoology: timid, submissive men who are abused and denied their needs by others. These days it's almost become more of an insult than a description.
I don't know if this system is really suitable for humans. Not all animal societies function this way. But a lot of guys really took it and ran with it. I guess it's a way of giving a terminology to something that's largely unspoken. We live in a society that often favours the dominant and the unscrupulous and neglects or even punishes weakness. There is a feeling that if you're not aggressive, bold or strong, that you'll never get women, sex, money or even your basic needs met. Men fear "betaness", we don't want to be the one who comes in last.
But is that really human nature or is it just 21st century capitalism? I don't know. I've heard early hunter gatherer societies were remarkably egalitarian and so are some indigenous cultures. It's possible that our hierarchical societies could be built on learned behaviour.2
Most Helpful Girl
alpha male: loser
beta male: loser2