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 Sultan Qaboos also leaves a country that has followed — but not entirely mimicked — the stunning metamorphoses across the gulf Arab states. Washington Post, "Sultan Qaboos, who transformed Oman into a regional powerbroker, dies at 79," 11 Jan. 2020 Traversing some of the same landscape Rachel Cusk visits in her Outline trilogy, Levy writes about the metamorphoses of motherhood, divorce, the death of her mother. Rachel Donadio, The Atlantic, "Deborah Levy’s Disorienting, Captivating Fiction," 11 Oct. 2019 The star is in the midst of a major metamorphosis (cue the Hilary Duff track), starting 2020 off right with a whole new era of Selena – which, of course, includes a killer haircut. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Selena Gomez Unveils Retro Shag Haircut in New "Rare" Music Video," 10 Jan. 2020 Then there’s the recent metamorphosis in his game that has been nothing short of striking and has made him more of an attractive Love alternative than ever before: Basically overnight, Aldridge has blasted from the 1990s to the 2020s. Mike Finger,, "LaMarcus Aldridge’s market value rising as San Antonio Spurs fight for playoff spot," 7 Jan. 2020 The film has its own metamorphosis of sorts too as the nature of even their relationship becomes amorphous and obscured when a farce about the two being married ends up becoming very real. Jake Coyle And Lindsey Bahr, Houston Chronicle, "‘Tree of Life’ tops list of 10 best films of the decade," 26 Dec. 2019 From there, hair and makeup artisans completed the metamorphosis, including an extra degree of difficulty that involved replicating the broadcaster's thick on-air cosmetics. Scott Huver, The Hollywood Reporter, "How 'Bombshell's' Makeup and Hair Pros Transformed Charlize Theron Into Megyn Kelly," 25 Dec. 2019 But even beyond that, mall owner Brookfield Properties envisions a more ambitious metamorphosis, one that includes the development of a substantial number of homes. Jason W. Lloren,, "Bay Briefing: A $2.5 billion housing remedy," 4 Nov. 2019 That trio of newcomers serve as the face of Florida’s metamorphosis, bringing an influx of talent to a largely re-tooled team. Emily Caron,, "Scottie Lewis and Tre Mann Give Florida a Potent New Five-Star Duo," 6 Sep. 2019

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

19 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Metamorphosis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 Feb. 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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