meta·​mor·​pho·​sis | \ˌme-tə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs \
plural metamorphoses\ -​ˌsēz \

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

This small, intensely crossed section of the border has been in a state of metamorphosis for several years with the upgrade and expansion of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. Sandra Dibble,, "Study sees two countries, one neighborhood at the U.S.-Mexico border," 11 June 2018 Their metamorphoses are achieved with little excessive flourish. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ Is a Transfixing Epic of Riches and Ruin," 13 July 2018 Kennedy's metamorphosis was most apparent this month. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court's conservatives mark return to power with major rulings, minor punts," 27 June 2018 When the stuff resembles a bread sponge, Gurvin shifts to powerful kneading until finally the metamorphosis is complete — the once soupy mixture is now a pale 35-pound mass of sesame halvah, one of the world's most ancient confections. Amelia Saltsman,, "The addictive joy of the sesame confection halvah, made in Los Angeles," 16 Mar. 2018 The models traded in their signature chest-grazing manes for directional bobs, and each metamorphosis instantaneously marked a new chapter in their careers. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "7 Mesmerizing Beauty Lessons That Dominated Paris Fashion Week," 7 Mar. 2018 But this continual metamorphosis also creates a sense of nostalgia. Andrew Webster, The Verge, "Octopath Traveler is a modern take on classic Final Fantasy on the Nintendo Switch," 12 July 2018 Durant, too, has been transformed by his new circumstances, though his metamorphosis has been far less linear, far murkier. Nathaniel Friedman, GQ, "Kevin Durant Is in a Tricky Spot," 9 June 2018 Conservatory President David Stull noted the school’s metamorphosis into a global music center and professional training ground. Catherine Bigelow, San Francisco Chronicle, "Conservatory of Music celebrates centennial by raising $1 million," 27 Mar. 2018

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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Last Updated

1 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for metamorphosis

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

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More Definitions for metamorphosis



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 \
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 \
plural metamorphoses\ -​ˌsēz \

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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