trans·​mute | \ tran(t)s-ˈmyüt How to pronounce transmute (audio) , tranz- \
transmuted; transmuting

Definition of transmute

transitive verb

1 : to change or alter in form, appearance, or nature and especially to a higher form
2 : to subject (something, such as an element) to transmutation

intransitive verb

: to undergo transmutation

Other Words from transmute

transmutable \ tran(t)s-​ˈmyü-​tə-​bəl How to pronounce transmute (audio) , tranz-​ \ adjective

Choose the Right Synonym for transmute

transform, metamorphose, transmute, convert, transmogrify, transfigure mean to change a thing into a different thing. transform implies a major change in form, nature, or function. transformed a small company into a corporate giant metamorphose suggests an abrupt or startling change induced by or as if by magic or a supernatural power. awkward girls metamorphosed into graceful ballerinas transmute implies transforming into a higher element or thing. attempted to transmute lead into gold convert implies a change fitting something for a new or different use or function. converted the study into a nursery transmogrify suggests a strange or preposterous metamorphosis. a story in which a frog is transmogrified into a prince transfigure implies a change that exalts or glorifies. joy transfigured her face

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Transmutation changes something over into something else. Thus, a writer may transmute his life into stories or novels, and an arranger might transmute a lively march tune into a quiet lullaby. In the "Myth of Er" at the end of Plato's Republic, for example, human souls are transmuted into the body and existence of their choice. Having learned from their last life what they do not want to be, many choose transmutation into something that seems better. A meek man chooses to be transmuted into a tyrant, a farmer into a dashing (but short-lived) warrior, and so on. But very few seem to have learned anything from their former life that would make their choice a real improvement.

Examples of transmute in a Sentence

The stories of their lives were transmuted into works of fiction. The former criminal had transmuted into a national hero.
Recent Examples on the Web Slowly, painfully, by fits and starts, the heroic narrative of the Arab spring was transmuted into something much darker. New York Times, 12 May 2020 Similarly, the imperative to invent a vaccine as rapidly as possibly is not dissimilar from the effort at Los Alamos: Both require rapidly transmuting existing scientific knowledge into highly specific and practical technologies. Mark P. Mills, National Review, 29 Apr. 2020 Mysteries, like works of horror, transmute nebulous fears into tangible dangers. Nora Caplan-bricker, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2019 Instead, the hazy hue transmuted a femme fatale makeup staple into something softer and more romantic. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, 20 July 2018 Old Dolio's lack of lived experience transmutes into a kind of Buddhist wisdom; the family briefly gets to play-act at normalcy; everyone sees that, in disruptive ways, Melanie is different from them. John Defore, The Hollywood Reporter, 26 Jan. 2020 The Lincoln that Trump conjured for this scenario—a bizarre one even by the President’s standards—was transmuted into a leftist-socialist-globalist-radical-Democrat. Sidney Blumenthal, The New Yorker, 24 Oct. 2019 The other candidates, on the whole, hoped to transmute the lessons about Trump’s character and dishonesty which emerged from the impeachment into material for the campaign trail. Amy Davidson Sorkin, The New Yorker, 21 Dec. 2019 At best, Maxo rapping about real-life trials and tribulations should be cathartic for both him and the crowd, but too often, the concert alchemy proved too delicate to transmute the experience. Chris Kelly, Washington Post, 26 Oct. 2019 See More

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

First Known Use of transmute

15th century, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for transmute

Middle English, from Latin transmutare, from trans- + mutare to change — more at mutable

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The first known use of transmute was in the 15th century

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Cite this Entry

“Transmute.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for transmute


transitive verb
trans·​mute | \ tranz-ˈmyüt, trans- How to pronounce transmute (audio) \
transmuted; transmuting

Legal Definition of transmute

: to convert or transform the type of ownership of (property) by transmutation did not transmute the properties themselves into marital assetsIn re Siddens, 588 N.E.2d 321 (1992)


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