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 So 3! is 3 times 2 times 1, or six — the number of permutations for our example traveling salesman. Philip Bump, Washington Post, "The breathtaking scale of Santa Claus’s task on Christmas Eve," 20 Dec. 2019 This Heat team is a 50ish-win team, and, yet, all fans talk about are possible trade permutations. Ira Winderman,, "ASK IRA: Would DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge make sense for Heat?," 28 Nov. 2019 After the way every possible permutation of this topic has been bandied about for the past month — such is the NBA silly season — the answers should not surprise anyone. Nick Talbot,, "Writers’ Roundtable: Are the Spurs still a playoff team after this offseason?," 20 July 2019 That lineup comes with question marks, as would most any permutation of players Popovich picked. Jeff Mcdonald,, "Spurs’ starting five ‘not set in stone,’ but cement is drying," 14 Oct. 2019 If the project sounds familiar, that’s because various permutations of the concept have existed on and off for about 40 years but have been paused by environmental concerns and claims of overdevelopment. Daily Pilot, "Newport Beach to begin environmental study for latest Dunes hotel pitch," 25 Sep. 2019 Spoelstra's lineups have routinely been fluid at the start of seasons and there certainly will be ample permutations with this group. Ira Winderman,, "10 burning Heat questions: From Butler to Winslow to Dragic to health and a healthier free-throw percentage," 26 Sep. 2019 But after hearing her response to Thorne’s hack, and the different permutations of it that pop up over and over when these leaks happen, whatever point Goldberg wanted to make about privacy is comparatively lost. Alex Abad-santos, Vox, "Bella Thorne and Whoopi Goldberg’s fight over nude photos is bigger than both of them," 21 June 2019 Various romantic permutations coalesce and break apart, threatening but never destroying the family’s integrity. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "The Mysteriously Enduring Appeal of Friends," 10 Sep. 2019

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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Time Traveler for permutation

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

19 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Permutation.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 29 January 2020.

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More Definitions for permutation


How to pronounce permutation (audio)

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).


to assert without proof or before proving

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