meta·​mor·​pho·​sis | \ ˌme-tə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \
plural metamorphoses\ ˌme-​tə-​ˈmȯr-​fə-​ˌsēz How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \

Definition of metamorphosis

1a : change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means the metamorphosis of humans into animals
b : a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances The company has gone through a series of metamorphoses.
2 : a typically marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (such as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching the metamorphosis of caterpillars into butterflies

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Many ancient myths end in a metamorphosis. As Apollo is chasing the nymph Daphne, she calls on her river-god father for help and he turns her into a laurel tree to save her. Out of anger and jealousy, the goddess Athena turns the marvelous weaver Arachne into a spider that will spin only beautiful webs. But natural substances may also metamorphose, or undergo metamorphosis. Heat and pressure over thousands of years may eventually turn tiny organisms into petroleum, and coal into diamonds. And the most beloved of natural metamorphoses (notice how this plural is formed) is probably the transformation of caterpillars into butterflies.

Examples of metamorphosis in a Sentence

We have watched her metamorphosis from a shy schoolgirl into a self-confident businesswoman. a company that has gone through a series of metamorphoses The government has undergone political metamorphosis since his election. the metamorphosis of tadpoles into frogs The class learned about how caterpillars undergo metamorphosis to become butterflies.
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Recent Examples on the Web The reinvented fish bun arrives sitting next to a pat of rich seaweed butter, seeming cannily aware of its metamorphosis. The New Yorker, 27 Aug. 2021 The growing hybrid model poses a newfound challenge for performance reviews and appraisals, an aging annual tradition that was already in the midst of a metamorphosis (subscription required). Kristina Johnson, Forbes, 7 Sep. 2021 Some entomologists suspect the silken cocoon caps, which protect young paper wasps during metamorphosis, may regulate the amount of damaging ultraviolet radiation that reaches the larvae—like a sunshade for baby wasps. Corryn Wetzel, Smithsonian Magazine, 27 Aug. 2021 But there are some essential coordinates: the circulation and metamorphosis of Jamaican dancehall, Panamanian reggae en español, hip-hop and Puerto Rican underground. Isabelia Herrera, New York Times, 11 Aug. 2021 Still, in her role as Susan Carpenter-McMillan, Paula Jones’s glamorous legal advisor, Light’s metamorphosis makes for one of her most memorable performances in a Murphy show yet. Vogue, 9 Sep. 2021 But, even with careful calculation, the details of firefly metamorphosis can be difficult to precisely predict. Leigh Ann Henion, Washington Post, 7 Sep. 2021 Many Arab-Americans who, like me, were born and raised in the United States also went through the same metamorphosis. Dean Obeidallah, CNN, 6 Sep. 2021 Millions more, like Patricia Smith, were too young to comprehend the destruction and the metamorphosis that followed. Bill Hutchinson, ABC News, 5 Sep. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'metamorphosis.' 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 metamorphosis

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

History and Etymology for metamorphosis

Latin, from Greek metamorphōsis, from metamorphoun to transform, from meta- + morphē form

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

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Last Updated

11 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Metamorphosis.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for metamorphosis



English Language Learners Definition of metamorphosis

: a major change in the appearance or character of someone or something
: a major change in the form or structure of some animals or insects that happens as the animal or insect becomes an adult


meta·​mor·​pho·​sis | \ ˌme-tə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \
plural metamorphoses\ -​fə-​ˌsēz \

Kids Definition of metamorphosis

1 : a great change in appearance or character
2 : the process of great and usually rather sudden change in the form and habits of some animals during transformation from an immature stage (as a caterpillar) to an adult stage (as a butterfly)


meta·​mor·​pho·​sis | \ ˌmet-ə-ˈmȯr-fə-səs How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \
plural metamorphoses\ -​ˌsēz How to pronounce metamorphosis (audio) \

Medical Definition of metamorphosis

1 : change of physical form, structure, or substance
2 : a marked and more or less abrupt developmental change in the form or structure of an animal (as a butterfly or a frog) occurring subsequent to birth or hatching


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