per·​mu·​ta·​tion | \ ˌpər-myü-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce permutation (audio) \

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 How to pronounce permutational (audio) , -​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

As walls don’t tend to talk, Mr. Ayckbourn explores these permutations by tracing the adventures of a 17-year-old footman (Antony Eden) through the decades. Alexis Soloski, New York Times, "9 Plays and Musicals to Go to in NYC This Weekend," 26 Apr. 2018 Facebook said engineers were seeking and removing a video by the gunman, who used Facebook Live to stream at least part of his deadly assault on two mosques, and permutations posted by others, Ms. Taylor said. Alexandra Bruell, WSJ, "Digital Media Companies Tell Ad Giant It’s ‘All Hands on Deck’ to Pull New Zealand Video," 15 Mar. 2019 The permutations and possibilities are increasing, and so the number of acceptable excuses has diminished. Grant Wahl And Brian Straus,, "2018 MLS Ambition Rankings: Which Clubs Raise the Bar Highest as the League Grows?," 23 Apr. 2018 So many bands that sounded scary upon arrival gradually sounded gentler as newer, faster, growlier permutations began making a racket. Andrew Dansby, Houston Chronicle, "One more storm of blood from Slayer, on the metals band’s final tour," 13 June 2018 As the teams scrap it out for either survival or for the top spot in the group and a plum draw in the knockout stage, there are countless scenarios and permutations that will decide the fate of all those World Cup dreams. Martin Rogers, USA TODAY, "World Cup group qualifying scenarios for every team as knockout stage nears," 23 June 2018 Instead, you are pulled you into its unceasing tidal sweep, as tickled as a toddler with a bedtime story that promises endless permutations. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: ‘The Lehman Trilogy’ Is a Transfixing Epic of Riches and Ruin," 13 July 2018 The software does the rest—exploring nearly infinite design permutations based on existing design concepts. Pam Baker, Ars Technica, "Artificial Intelligence and the coming of the self-designing machine," 6 Dec. 2018 In mathematics, a permutation is the order of a set of numbers. Mary Beth Griggs, The Verge, "An anonymous 4chan post could help solve a 25-year-old math mystery," 24 Oct. 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

11 May 2019

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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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on permutation

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with permutation

Spanish Central: Translation of permutation

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

Comments on permutation

What made you want to look up permutation? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


incapable of being surmounted or overcome

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