per·​mu·​ta·​tion | \ˌpər-myü-ˈtā-shən \

Definition of permutation 

1 : often major or fundamental change (as in character or condition) based primarily on rearrangement of existent elements the system has gone through several permutations also : a form or variety resulting from such change technology available in various permutations

2a : the act or process of changing the lineal order of an ordered set of objects

b : an ordered arrangement of a set of objects

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Other Words from permutation

permutational \ ˌpər-​myü-​ˈtā-​shnəl , -​shə-​nᵊl \ adjective

Did You Know?

Permutation has not changed all that much since it was borrowed into Middle English from Anglo-French in the 14th century as permutacioun, meaning "exchange, transformation." Permutacioun traces back to the Latin verb permutare, meaning "to change thoroughly, exchange," and ultimately derives from the Latin mutare, to change. Other descendants of mutare in English include commute, mutant, and mutual. Permutation also has a specific application in the field of mathematics relating to the ordering of a given set of objects. For example, permutations of items a, b, and c are abc, acb, bac, etc.

Examples of permutation in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Among culturally telling permutations of the wider alt-right Twitter is an internet personality known as Bronze Age Pervert. Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, "The religious hunger that drives Jordan Peterson’s fandom," 1 June 2018 This thanks to his embrace of seemingly every permutation of the brand’s signature futuristic plastic disc and chain mail dresses. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, "The Elephant in the Dressing Room," 2 Mar. 2018 Instead, rival parties can try to pre-empt them with another permutation of seats that controls a majority in Parliament. Margaret Coker, New York Times, "Iraqi Election Front-Runner Moktada al-Sadr Courts Partners to Govern," 15 May 2018 Sunday’s show at Union Transfer features a different permutation: Geologist (Brian Weitz) opening for, and then playing with, Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) — although it is not billed as an Animal Collective show., "South Street Spring Festival, Fishtown Flea, Sly Fox Bock Fest and Goat Race, and other fun happenings, May 4-11," 2 May 2018 The Wings brass, led by Holland prepared for every possible permutation of the first round. Jamie Samuelsen, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings hope luck is on their side with 2018 NHL draft haul," 27 June 2018 Even Amazon’s vast cloud computers can’t calculate all the permutations, obstacles and political cross-currents such a legislative journey would witness. Andrew Malcolm, San Francisco Chronicle, "Republicans abandon conservatism," 15 Feb. 2018 The space went through various permutations over the next century, even becoming a foundry and lock factory. Patrick Z. Mcgavin, Daily Southtown, "Guide to outdoor dining in Chicago suburbs: Public Landing in Lockport," 8 July 2018 The band, which is still active, has gone through various permutations. Richard Sandomir, New York Times, "Nokie Edwards, Whose Guitar Drove the Ventures, Is Dead at 82," 16 Mar. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'permutation.' 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 permutation

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for permutation

Middle English permutacioun exchange, transformation, from Anglo-French, from Latin permutation-, permutatio, from permutare

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Last Updated

26 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for permutation

The first known use of permutation was in the 14th century

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English Language Learners Definition of permutation

: one of the many different ways or forms in which something exists or can be arranged

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Spanish Central: Translation of permutation

Britannica English: Translation of permutation for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about permutation

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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