Definition of metathesis
: a change of place or condition: such asa : 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
metatheticallyplay \-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb
metathesis was our Word of the Day on 02/09/2009. Hear the podcast!
Did You Know?
One familiar example of metathesis is our 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."
Origin and Etymology of metathesis
Late Latin, from Greek, from metatithenai to transpose, from meta- + tithenai to place — more at do
First Known Use: circa 1538
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