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

Keep scrolling for more

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

No one objected to the premise of a U.S. response, but that had many possible permutations, according to the source. CBS News, "Top members of Congress huddle with Trump on Iran," 20 June 2019 Yes, complex portfolio permutations can work; experts showed it repeatedly at Morningstar’s conference. Chuck Jaffe, The Seattle Times, "Don’t give up old investment standards to try new ideas," 18 May 2019 Chess, Go and video games like Dota 2 have many more permutations than there are atoms in the universe. Quanta Magazine, "Why Artificial Intelligence Like AlphaZero Has Trouble With the Real World," 21 Feb. 2018 So there are two permutations that start with A: namely ABC and ACB. Quanta Magazine, "Unscrambling the Hidden Secrets of Superpermutations," 16 Jan. 2019 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about permutation

Listen to Our Podcast about permutation

Statistics for permutation

Last Updated

6 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for permutation

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for permutation



English Language Learners Definition of permutation

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

Keep scrolling for more

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 form ideas or theories about something

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Farm Idioms Quiz

  • cow coming home
  • What does 'poke' refer to in the expression 'pig in a poke'?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!