per·​mu·​ta·​tion ˌpər-myü-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce permutation (audio)
: 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
: the act or process of changing the lineal order of an ordered set of objects
: an ordered arrangement of a set of objects
permutational adjective

Did you know?

Permutation has not changed all that much since it was borrowed into Middle English from Anglo-French 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 One person familiar with the script permutations says the story at one point morphed into a narrative led by women and filled with life lessons. Tatiana Siegel, Variety, 1 Nov. 2023 The permutations for this comforter set are almost endless. Sharon Brandwein, Southern Living, 3 Aug. 2023 Medium to longer-term developments in the energy sector, and the risk / reward permutations offered by it, often appear attractive to many investors. Gaurav Sharma, Forbes, 17 July 2023 Now the entire sector has caught up, with dozens of permutations. Brian Steinberg, Variety, 9 Oct. 2023 Different permutations toured together — as the Other Ones, as Furthur, as the adjective-less the Dead. Marc Tracy Peter Fisher, New York Times, 14 July 2023 Perfectionism to the point of incapacitation may sound extreme, except what appear as limitations in practice flower in endless permutation. Max Lakin, New York Times, 14 Sep. 2023 Across the industry, AAV companies have been struggling, either shelving programs or stopping work altogether, while investors shuttled money toward new technologies such as CRISPR and its various permutations. Jason Mast, STAT, 1 Sep. 2023 One of its earliest permutations came from Alan Dershowitz, who argued all the way back in 2017, during the Russia investigation, that a D.C. jury pool would be hostile to Trump because of the city’s large Black population. Matt Ford, The New Republic, 2 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'permutation.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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


Dictionary Entries Near permutation

Cite this Entry

“Permutation.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


per·​mu·​ta·​tion ˌpər-myu̇-ˈtā-shən How to pronounce permutation (audio)
: an ordered arrangement of a set of objects

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