meta·​mor·​pho·​sis | \ ˌme-tə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \
plural metamorphoses\ ˌme-​tə-​ˈmȯr-​fə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce metamorphoses (audio) \

Definition of metamorphosis

1a : change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means the metamorphosis of humans into animals
b : a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances The company has gone through a series of metamorphoses.
2 : a typically marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (such as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies

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Did You Know?

Many ancient myths end in a metamorphosis. As Apollo is chasing the nymph Daphne, she calls on her river-god father for help and he turns her into a laurel tree to save her. Out of anger and jealousy, the goddess Athena turns the marvelous weaver Arachne into a spider that will spin only beautiful webs. But natural substances may also metamorphose, or undergo metamorphosis. Heat and pressure over thousands of years may eventually turn tiny organisms into petroleum, and coal into diamonds. And the most beloved of natural metamorphoses (notice how this plural is formed) is probably the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies.

Examples of metamorphosis in a Sentence

We have watched her metamorphosis from a shy schoolgirl into a self-confident businesswoman. a company that has gone through a series of metamorphoses The government has undergone political metamorphosis since his election. the metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs The class learned about how caterpillars undergo metamorphosis to become butterflies.
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Recent Examples on the Web The political left, which over the years has not been as motivated about the courts, has undergone a metamorphosis since 2016 when Republicans blocked Obama's effort to fill the seat left open when Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "President Trump has transformed the federal courts, but John Roberts still leads them," 1 July 2020 Completing the project and reaching the highest rank of Girl Scout ambassador was the teen’s own journey of metamorphosis, the name of Ariel’s project. Vincent T. Davis,, "San Antonio Girl Scout grows garden, future with help of strong mentors," 29 June 2020 In recent weeks, what began as an increasing number of straightforward pleas in her name have undergone a metamorphosis. NBC News, "Twitter memeified justice for Breonna Taylor. But can a joke make change?," 19 June 2020 The current Tiguan, however, has gone through a metamorphosis, sprouting a third row and reshaping itself into something more closely resembling a mid-size SUV. Nicholas Wallace, Car and Driver, "These Are the 8 Most Reliable Used SUVs," 13 June 2020 The Ann Arbor native transformed from walk-on to All-Big Ten leadoff hitter to third-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in the MLB draft on Thursday in a metamorphosis that still stuns those who witnessed it up close. Rainer Sabin, Detroit Free Press, "Michigan baseball can thank College World Series run for heralded status in draft," 13 June 2020 Thursday’s launch of OpenAI’s first commercial product completes the metamorphosis. Tom Simonite, Wired, "OpenAI's Text Generator Is Going Commercial," 11 June 2020 About a month into their development, the fry undergo a metamorphosis: Their skull shape begins to change, and one eye begins to migrate over the fish’s head to join the other. National Geographic, "Flatfishes," 11 June 2020 In March, as daily death tolls from COVID-19 climbed toward their peak in Italy, Zavoli’s sons watched the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies. Tana Wojczuk, The New Yorker, "A Mother Turns Her Quarantine Yard Into an Enchanted Garden," 8 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'metamorphosis.' 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 metamorphosis

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

History and Etymology for metamorphosis

Latin, from Greek metamorphōsis, from metamorphoun to transform, from meta- + morphē form

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Time Traveler for metamorphosis

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for metamorphosis

Last Updated

6 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Metamorphosis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

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More Definitions for metamorphosis


How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of metamorphosis

: a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something
biology : a major change in the form or structure of some animals or insects that happens as the animal or insect becomes an adult


meta·​mor·​pho·​sis | \ ˌme-tə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \
plural metamorphoses\ -​fə-​ˌsēz \

Kids Definition of metamorphosis

1 : a great change in appearance or character
2 : the process of great and usually rather sudden change in the form and habits of some animals during transformation from an immature stage (as a caterpillar) to an adult stage (as a butterfly)


meta·​mor·​pho·​sis | \ ˌmet-ə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \
plural metamorphoses\ -​ˌsēz How to pronounce metamorphoses (audio) \

Medical Definition of metamorphosis

1 : change of physical form, structure, or substance
2 : a marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching

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