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[pur-myoo-tey-shuh n] /ˌpɜr myʊˈteɪ ʃən/
the act of permuting or permutating; alteration; transformation.
  1. the act of changing the order of elements arranged in a particular order, as abc into acb, bac, etc., or of arranging a number of elements in groups made up of equal numbers of the elements in different orders, as a and b in ab and ba; a one-to-one transformation of a set with a finite number of elements.
  2. any of the resulting arrangements or groups.
    Compare combination (def 8b).
Origin of permutation
1325-75; Middle English permutacioun (< Middle French permutacion) < Latin permūtātiōn- (stem of permūtātiō) thoroughgoing change. See per-, mutation, permute
Related forms
permutational, adjective
permutationist, noun
1. modification, transmutation, change. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for permutation
Historical Examples
  • What artifice can we then employ to provoke this second permutation?

    Bramble-bees and Others J. Henri Fabre
  • The first permutation makes the second seem very probable, although I cannot as yet conceive a means of realizing it.

    Bramble-bees and Others J. Henri Fabre
  • This indicates the distinction between the permutation of letters and the transition of letters.

    The English Language Robert Gordon Latham
  • It is clear how very different the results would become by the permutation and combination of these diverse factors.

    Life Movements in Plants Sir Jagadis Chunder Bose
  • He is not a permutation and combination of old elements, transferred through the parents.

  • The economic reform wrought is largely of the nature of a permutation in the methods of conspicuous waste.

  • Let this be learned to perfection, backwards and forwards, or by permutation of words, and repeated the next day.

    The Mystic Will

    Charles Godfrey Leland
  • We may thus select the four coins in one hundred ways, and the four removed may be arranged by permutation in twenty-four ways.

    Amusements in Mathematics Henry Ernest Dudeney
  • This permutation is made very convenient by the sentences being printed in sections which may be moved about and combined at will.

  • Nevertheless, it is much easier to give the child a vivid impression of them by the permutation of parts than by explanation.

British Dictionary definitions for permutation


  1. an ordered arrangement of the numbers, terms, etc, of a set into specified groups: the permutations of a, b, and c, taken two at a time, are ab, ba, ac, ca, bc, cb
  2. a group formed in this way. The number of permutations of n objects taken r at a time is n!/(nr)! nPr Compare combination (sense 6)
a combination of items made by reordering
an alteration; transformation
a fixed combination for selections of results on football pools Usually shortened to perm
Derived Forms
permutational, adjective
Word Origin
C14: from Latin permūtātiō, from permūtāre to change thoroughly; see mutation
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for permutation

mid-14c., from Old French permutacion "change, shift" (14c.), from Latin permutationem (nominative permutatio) "a change, alteration, revolution," noun of action from past participle stem of permutare "change thoroughly, exchange," from per- "thoroughly" (see per) + mutare "to change" (see mutable).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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