me·​tath·​e·​sis mə-ˈta-thə-səs How to pronounce metathesis (audio)
plural metatheses mə-ˈta-thə-ˌsēz How to pronounce metathesis (audio)
: a change of place or condition: such as
: transposition of two phonemes in a word (as in the development of crud from curd or the pronunciation \ˈpər-tē\ for pretty)
: a chemical reaction in which different kinds of molecules exchange parts to form other kinds of molecules
metathetical adjective
or metathetic
metathetically 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."

Word History


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

First Known Use

circa 1538, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of metathesis was circa 1538


Dictionary Entries Near metathesis

Cite this Entry

“Metathesis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jun. 2024.

Medical Definition


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