tran·​si·​tion | \ tran(t)-ˈsi-shən How to pronounce transition (audio) , tran-ˈzi-, chiefly British tran(t)-ˈsi-zhən \
plural transitions

Definition of transition

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : a change or shift from one state, subject, place, etc. to another a peaceful/orderly transition of power the actor's transition to directing the patient's transition from the hospital to home … the transition from print reading to screen reading has increased our reliance on images …— Christine Rosen The program works with newcomer families, and their students, to help support the transition and integration into the school system.— Chris Sumner The National Portrait Gallery's emphasis in its caricature collection underscores the field's subtle transition between the world wars, when it went from mostly political uses to the light-hearted entertainment of celebrity caricature.— Jane Addams Allen … having told all her griefs …, she was soon able to make a voluntary transition to the oddities of her cousin …— Jane Austen Since the eye retains images slightly longer than it is actually exposed to them, it tends to meld two successive images into one, creating a smooth transition between them. This phenomenon … is responsible for the illusion of motion in movies … and television.— Edward Pincus and Steven Ascher
b : a period or phase in which such a change or shift is happening … you're at the cusp, kids. You're at the edge between childhood and everything that comes after. You're in transition.— R. J. Palacio … non-REM sleep, which normally comprises the transition between waking and REM sleep …— Marina Chicurel Perched at the very point of transition between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance …Kirkus Reviews … today's average marrying age in America happens to coincide with a time of life when people have historically been less religiously active: the transition period between moving out of your parents' house and starting a household of your own.— Emma Green
2 : something that links one state, subject, place, etc. to another : a connecting part or piece [The front porch] served … as a vital transition between the uncontrollable out-of-doors and the cherished interior of the home.— Reynolds Price : such as
a : a passage of discourse in which a shift (as of subject or location) is effected Every aspect of the book—its narrative transitions, dramatic changes in pictorial scale, fluctuations of mood, interlinking of visual themes—is handled with pinpoint control.— Holland Cotter
b : a segment connecting one dramatic scene to another Another misstep: the overuse of historical footage as a transition between scenes. The images are disruptive and used completely out of context, often predating the era depicted here.— Nicole Herrington
c : a passage linking two sections of a piece of music : bridge Furthermore, in two instances where new musical ideas are introduced … Mozart provides a musical transition to connect the new section with the preceding one.— Michael Nott It's a complicated emotion, and one that needed to be looked at and felt for quite some time before being hooked up with anything as confining as an intro, a verse or three, a chorus, and a bridge (transition between verse and chorus).— Carly Simon also : a musical modulation (see modulation sense 3) Occasionally composers will introduce their new key area abruptly. More often, however, they will effect a smooth transition into the new key. — Edward Aldwell and Carl Schachter
3 : a process by which a transgender person comes to live in accordance with their gender identity through changes to their appearance and presentation often with the aid of medical procedures and therapies

Note: While many associate this meaning of transition with a process that involves hormone therapy, gender confirmation surgery, and legal name change, the term is also applied more broadly, since what transition involves can vary a great deal from person to person. In some cases, for example, the word transition may simply refer to the adoption of new personal pronouns and/or a change in clothing, hairstyle, etc.

4 : an abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy


transitioned; transitioning; transitions

Definition of transition (Entry 2 of 2)

1a intransitive : to make a change or shift from one state, subject, place, etc. to another : to make a transition transitioning to a new facility a student transitioning into college Too many of the exterior shingles had transitioned from weathered to warped, and the interior walls all needed a fresh coat of paint.— Richard Russo Because tornadoes are generated when these different air masses … collide, they are most common in the spring, when the weather is transitioning from cold on the northern Plains to hot on the Gulf Coast.— Donald Prothero
b transitive : to cause (something or someone) to change or shift from one state, subject, place, etc. to another Teaching children to read first in their nonstandard Swedish dialect and then transitioning them to standard Swedish speeds and improves the acquisition of reading skills.— Geoffrey K. Pullum In the United States, the company's plans for transitioning prescription products to over-the-counter is easier now, as the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) unwritten standards for such switches have evolved.— Robin Madell
2 intransitive, of a transgender person : to come to live in accordance with one's gender identity through a process that involves changes to one's appearance and presentation often with the aid of medical procedures and therapies Not all transgender people transition, and transitions look different for all kinds of people. They can be fast, or slow, and include lots of different kinds of treatments. … Transition is not one-size-fits-all. You may be comfortable altering your gendered existence without hormones or surgery; other people will feel those kinds of physical transitions are necessary for their survival.— Diana Tourjée … her [Jan Morris'] superb account of transitioning from male to female in the 1960s, when it was even more difficult than it is now.— Peter Bradshaw … she wanted to be helpful to other trans people who might not have had the same educational and cultural advantages she'd had. She had even written a guide about the practical aspects of transitioning, such as changing your name and updating legal documents, for others who might be following a similar path.— Rebecca Mead

Examples of transition in a Sentence

Noun We want to have a smooth transition when the new owners take control of the company. the sometimes difficult transition from childhood to adulthood The country made a peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. Verb The company has transitioned to new management in the past year. a student who is transitioning to a new school
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Celtics have also made a solid effort to get back in transition and prevent Antetokounmpo from gaining speed on drives to the basket. Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY, 6 May 2022 Sometimes, when running the floor in transition or setting a screen, Golden State Warriors forward Otto Porter Jr. feels a quick surge of gratitude. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, 5 May 2022 But Maryland closed out the second quarter with four unanswered goals and added a fifth from Long in transition just 45 seconds into the third. Edward Lee, Baltimore Sun, 5 May 2022 Now in its fifth year, the program offers a kaleidoscopic portrait of a continent in transition, featuring nine feature-length and one short documentary selected by Hot Docs from over 60 submissions. Christopher Vourlias, Variety, 30 Apr. 2022 But Marcus Smart scored on a follow shot, made a jumper in transition before Brown got a steal and dunk to make it 81-72 going to the fourth. Brown kept the Nets at bay from there, repeatedly finding a 1-on-1 matchup and driving to the basket. Brian Mahoney, Hartford Courant, 23 Apr. 2022 With just over seven minutes to play in the third quarter, Mobley is behind the action as the Hawks get out in transition. Ashley Bastock, cleveland, 22 Apr. 2022 Already, innovative companies are identifying business opportunities in the transition to circularity. Euan Davis, Forbes, 21 Apr. 2022 Leonard’s knee injury occurred after he was bumped in transition during the 2021 playoffs. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 20 Apr. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Case said the police department is working to transition recruitment material away from images of police cars and SWAT vehicles and instead focus on the department’s community outreach to attract a wider range of applicants. Lex Treinen, Anchorage Daily News, 6 May 2022 As European countries transition away from Russian energy, key alternative sources will be wind farms in Germany and the North Sea, said Mr. Guinn of Accenture. Catherine Stupp, WSJ, 25 Apr. 2022 Nauru allowed Barron, an Australian, to sit in its delegate’s seat to address the council to pitch his company’s business plan and push seabed mining as a way to transition away from fossil fuels. Todd Woody, Los Angeles Times, 19 Apr. 2022 As Georgia and many other states transition away from using coal plants to generate power, the question of what to do with the waste left behind from burning coal remains a major issue. Drew Kann, ajc, 6 Apr. 2022 The Chamber of Commerce, for example, has begun to transition away from its traditional loyalty to the GOP, increasing its endorsements of Democrats and aligning itself with a number of left-wing cultural initiatives. Nate Hochman, National Review, 1 Apr. 2022 While the extra funding was welcomed, the government has been called out by global climate experts, among others, for not doing enough to transition Australia away from fossil fuels. Hilary Whiteman, CNN, 25 Mar. 2022 Europe’s plan could impact emerging markets that are trying to transition away from fossil fuels, if Europe outbids them for gas supplies, say energy analysts. Sara Schonhardt, Scientific American, 9 Mar. 2022 Democrats want to more quickly transition away from fossil fuels and encourage development of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. Adam Brewster, CBS News, 4 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'transition.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of transition


1545, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


1877, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for transition


Latin transition-, transitio, from transire

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Time Traveler for transition

Time Traveler

The first known use of transition was in 1545

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Dictionary Entries Near transition

transit instrument



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Statistics for transition

Last Updated

8 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Transition.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for transition


tran·​si·​tion | \ tran-ˈsi-shən How to pronounce transition (audio) , -ˈzi- \

Kids Definition of transition

: an act or the process of passing from one state, stage, place, or subject to another : change


tran·​si·​tion | \ tran(t)s-ˈish-ən, tranz-, chiefly British tran(t)s-ˈizh- \

Medical Definition of transition

1 : passage from one state or stage to another especially : an abrupt change in energy state or level (as of an atomic nucleus or a molecule) usually accompanied by loss or gain of a single quantum of energy
2 or transition mutation : a point mutation in RNA or DNA that results from the substitution of one purine base for the other or of one pyrimidine base for the other


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