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 Times analysis shows four inflection points in Mr. Biden’s fund-raising metamorphosis, beginning with one unwittingly provided last fall by Mr. Trump, whose presidency has been rocket fuel for Democratic fund-raising. Rachel Shorey, New York Times, "How Joe Biden Became the Unlikeliest of Online Fund-Raising Superstars," 14 Oct. 2020 Virginia’s seemingly quick flip into and out of swing territory may look like a smooth red-to-purple-to-blue metamorphosis, but nothing’s permanent in politics, said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, "No TV ads, no presidential visits. Virginia’s era as a swing state appears to be over.," 18 Sep. 2020 In just eleven months, the Top Ten underwent an extraordinary metamorphosis. Shawn Tully, Fortune, "Want to understand why tech stocks are crashing? This metric explains it all," 9 Sep. 2020 The album is about my metamorphosis as a human and an artist. Katie Bain, Billboard, "20 Questions With Joseph Capriati: Techno Veteran Checks In From Italian Hometown on Eve of Album Release," 3 Sep. 2020 Americans are watching this week the metamorphosis of a cornerstone of the presidential campaign. Peter Marks, Washington Post, "This convention isn’t just efficient. It’s award-worthy television.," 20 Aug. 2020 Frogs appear in many of her pieces, representing metamorphosis and transformation. Christine Fernando, The Indianapolis Star, "Why an Indianapolis artist is painting plague masks on toilet paper, pandemic-inspired art," 13 Aug. 2020 The idea that a murderer might be capable of undergoing the kind of social, emotional, and moral metamorphosis necessary to be worthy of love is a difficult concept for many people to grasp. Patricia Leigh Brown, The Christian Science Monitor, "From life in prison to out on parole: One group easing the transition," 14 Aug. 2020 In insects that undergo incomplete metamorphosis, the larvae are called nymphs. Liz Langley, National Geographic, "How a caterpillar becomes a butterfly: Metamorphosis, explained," 11 Aug. 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

22 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Metamorphosis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 30 Oct. 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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