der·​i·​va·​tion | \ ˌder-ə-ˈvā-shən How to pronounce derivation (audio) , ˌde-rə- \

Definition of derivation

1 linguistics
a(1) : the formation of a word from another word or base (as by the addition of a usually noninflectional affix) "Strategize" was formed by derivation from "strategy."
(2) : an act of ascertaining or stating the derivation of a word
(3) : etymology sense 1 research into the derivation of "Yankee"
b : the relation of a word to its base or root (see root entry 1 sense 6)
2a : source, origin foods of French derivation
b : descent, origination derivation from royal ancestors
3 : something that originates from something else : something derived : derivative more like an exact copy than a derivation
4 : an act or process of deriving debating the possible derivation of birds from dinosaurs
5 logic : a sequence of statements showing that a result is a necessary consequence of previously accepted statements

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Other Words from derivation

derivational \ ˌder-​ə-​ˈvā-​shnəl How to pronounce derivation (audio) , -​shə-​nᵊl , ˌde-​rə-​ \ adjective
… subjects' ability to auditorily recognize the correct form of derivational relationships where consonant and vowel alternation occurs. — Robert A. Barganz
derivationally adverb
derivationally related words

Synonyms & Antonyms for derivation



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Examples of derivation in a Sentence

He is doing research into the derivation of “Yankee.” “Childish” was formed by derivation from “child.” Scientists are debating the possible derivation of birds from dinosaurs.
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Recent Examples on the Web From the insight derivation or analytics perspective, the structure provides the right data type (i.e., nominal, ordinal or numeric). Prashanth Southekal, Forbes, 6 Apr. 2021 Over the years, single-member districts became the unquestioned norm and any derivation from them the strange exception. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 31 Dec. 2020 Correction: clarified the derivation of one of the percentages. John Timmer, Ars Technica, 17 Mar. 2020 Not all of Ylitalo’s creations are so clearly of Asian or Buddhist derivation. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, 31 Jan. 2020 Since the prayer began circulating during World War II, various theories have emerged about its derivation — did Niebuhr actually write it or cobble it together from historic precedents? — and about its precise wording. Sam Roberts, New York Times, 13 Dec. 2019 Soul and its pop derivations grew directly from gospel’s breakthroughs. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, 29 Oct. 2019 The big exception to tropical derivation are annuals and vegetables. Jeff Lowenfels, Anchorage Daily News, 24 Oct. 2019 Work it off in local style aboard a Bellyak, a kayak derivation in which paddlers lie on their bellies and use their hands, clad in webbed gloves, to paddle. Elaine Glusac, New York Times, 2 Sep. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'derivation.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of derivation

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for derivation

see derive

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Time Traveler for derivation

Time Traveler

The first known use of derivation was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Derivation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for derivation



English Language Learners Definition of derivation

: the origin of a word
: the act of forming a word from another word
: the source or origin of something


der·​i·​va·​tion | \ ˌder-ə-ˈvā-shən How to pronounce derivation (audio) \

Kids Definition of derivation

1 : the formation of a word from an earlier word or root
2 : etymology
3 : origin sense 1, source She enjoys foods of Mexican derivation.
4 : an act or process by which one thing is formed from another

More from Merriam-Webster on derivation

Nglish: Translation of derivation for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of derivation for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about derivation


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