su·​per·​po·​si·​tion ˌsü-pər-pə-ˈzi-shən How to pronounce superposition (audio)
plural superpositions
: the placement of one thing above or on top of another
The principle used to determine whether one sedimentary rock is older than another is very simple, and is known as the law of superposition. Here is an example: A deposit of mud laid down this year in, say, the Gulf of Mexico will rest on top of a layer that was deposited last year.Sheldon Judson and Marvin E. Kauffman
especially, physics : the combination of two distinct physical phenomena of the same type (such as spin or wavelength) so that they coexist as part of the same event
Schrödinger perversely suggested that until the box was opened and the outcome of the experiment observed, the particle must remain suspended in a superposition of two states: simultaneously going through both holes. George Johnson
In a quantum computer, however, the "transistors" remain in a superposition of 0 and 1 … Philip Yam

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web The circuit’s superposition was then transferred to the oscillation of the crystal. Lars Fischer, Scientific American, 12 May 2023 The superposition of the above factors may increase the probability of mistakenly stepping on the accelerator pedal for a long time, which may increase the risk of collision and pose a safety hazard. Andrew J. Hawkins, The Verge, 12 May 2023 But further, a functional language at the quantum level also hints at a range of other possible key principles—beyond superposition, entanglement, tunneling and annealing—that must exist and must be leveraged if a quantum computer is to begin to imitate nature. Pravir Malik, Forbes, 23 Jan. 2023 Alice measures the spin of a stream of electrons that are prepared in a superposition state. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, 19 Aug. 2020 The electron could use the quantum effect of superposition, where a particle can be in two places at once, to test several routes to the reaction center where photosynthesis takes place, and take the most efficient one. Steve Volk, Discover Magazine, 1 Mar. 2018 Rubino’s team looked at a quantum superposition with a state that evolves both backward and forward in time. Stav Dimitropoulos, Popular Mechanics, 22 Apr. 2022 But what if that object is in a superposition? Katie Mccormick, Quanta Magazine, 25 Oct. 2021 Things like superposition, entanglement, and even teleportation all seem possible when things go quantum. Darren Orf, Popular Mechanics, 23 Feb. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1656, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of superposition was in 1656

Dictionary Entries Near superposition

Cite this Entry

“Superposition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Jun. 2023.

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