me·​tath·​e·​sis | \ mə-ˈta-thə-səs How to pronounce metathesis (audio) \
plural metatheses\ mə-​ˈta-​thə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce metathesis (audio) \

Definition of metathesis

: a change of place or condition: such as
a : transposition of two phonemes in a word (as in the development of crud from curd or the pronunciation \ˈpər-tē\ for pretty)
b : a chemical reaction in which different kinds of molecules exchange parts to form other kinds of molecules

Other Words from metathesis

metathetical \ ˌme-​tə-​ˈthe-​ti-​kəl How to pronounce metathesis (audio) \ or metathetic \ ˌme-​tə-​ˈthe-​tik How to pronounce metathesis (audio) \ adjective
metathetically \ ˌme-​tə-​ˈthe-​ti-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce metathesis (audio) \ adverb

Did you know?

One familiar example of metathesis is the English word thrill, which was thyrlian in Old English and thirlen in Middle English. By the late 16th century, native English speakers had switched the placement of the r to form thrill. Another example is the alteration of curd into crud (the earliest sense of which was, unsurprisingly, curd). It probably won't surprise you to learn that the origin of metathesis lies in the idea of transposition—the word was borrowed into English in the mid-16th century and derives via Late Latin from the Greek verb metatithenai, meaning "to transpose."

First Known Use of metathesis

circa 1538, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for metathesis

Late Latin, from Greek, from metatithenai to transpose, from meta- + tithenai to place — more at do

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The first known use of metathesis was circa 1538

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Cite this Entry

“Metathesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for metathesis


me·​tath·​e·​sis | \ mə-ˈtath-ə-səs How to pronounce metathesis (audio) \
plural metatheses\ -​ˌsēz How to pronounce metathesis (audio) \

Medical Definition of metathesis


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