• synonyms


noun, plural me·tae [mee-tee] /ˈmi ti/.
  1. (in ancient Rome) a column or post, or a group of columns or posts, placed at each end of a racetrack to mark the turning places.
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Origin of meta1

First recorded in 1570–80, meta is from the Latin word mēta cone, turning post


adjective Chemistry.
  1. pertaining to or occupying two positions (1, 3) in the benzene ring that are separated by one carbon atom.
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Compare ortho, para3.

Origin of meta2

First recorded in 1875–80; independent use of meta-


  1. pertaining to or noting a story, conversation, character, etc., that consciously references or comments upon its own subject or features, often in the form of parody: A movie about making a movie is just so meta—especially when the actors criticize the acting.
  2. pertaining to or noting an abstract, high-level analysis or commentary, especially one that consciously references something of its own type.
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  1. a consciously and playfully self-referential story, conversation, etc.: That dialogue was an example of meta at its best.
  2. an abstract, high-level analysis or commentary: writing a meta to explain the character’s motivation.
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verb (used without object)
  1. to analyze or comment on something in a meta way: I spend more time metaing about the show than actually watching it.
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  1. a female given name.
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  1. a prefix appearing in loanwords from Greek, with the meanings “after,” “along with,” “beyond,” “among,” “behind,” and productive in English on the Greek model: metacarpus; metagenesis.
  2. a prefix added to the name of a subject and designating another subject that analyzes the original one but at a more abstract, higher level: metaphilosophy; metalinguistics.
  3. a prefix added to the name of something that consciously references or comments upon its own subject or features: a meta-painting of an artist painting a canvas.
  4. Chemistry.
    1. (of acids, salts, or their organic derivatives) a prefix denoting the least hydrated of a series: meta-antimonic, HSbO3; meta-antimonous, HSbO2.Compare ortho-, pyro-.
    2. a prefix designating the meta position in the benzene ring. Abbreviation: m-.Compare ortho-, para-1.
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Also especially before a vowel, met-.

Origin of meta-

< Greek, prefix and preposition; cognate with Old English mid ‘with’, German mit, Gothic mith
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for meta

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "Only a few cuts," he said, in Universal, though Meta had spoken Lhari.

    The Colors of Space

    Marion Zimmer Bradley

  • "A shock of this kind is extremely bad for Evie," said Meta.

  • Yes; Meta says she has had a severe shock, and the least reference to it might upset her again.

  • Meta Beggs was so close to Gordon that their shoulders touched.

    Mountain Blood

    Joseph Hergesheimer

  • His mind returned to Meta Beggs: coldness like hers was not natural, it was not right.

    Mountain Blood

    Joseph Hergesheimer

British Dictionary definitions for meta


  1. a river in Colombia, rising in the Andes and flowing northeast and east, forming part of the border between Colombia and Venezuela, to join the Orinoco River. Length: about 1000 km (620 miles)
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sometimes before a vowel met-

  1. indicating change, alteration, or alternationmetabolism; metamorphosis
  2. (of an academic discipline, esp philosophy) concerned with the concepts and results of the named disciplinemetamathematics; meta-ethics See also metatheory
  3. occurring or situated behind or aftermetaphase
  4. (often in italics) denoting that an organic compound contains a benzene ring with substituents in the 1,3-positionsmetadinitrobenzene; meta -cresol Abbreviation: m- Compare ortho- (def. 4), para- 1 (def. 6)
  5. denoting an isomer, polymer, or compound related to a specified compound (often differing from similar compounds that are prefixed by para-)metaldehyde
  6. denoting an oxyacid that is a lower hydrated form of the anhydride or a salt of such an acidmetaphosphoric acid Compare ortho- (def. 5)
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Word Origin

Greek, from meta with, after, between, among. Compare Old English mid, mith with, Old Norse meth with, between
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

Word Origin and History for meta


word-forming element meaning 1. "after, behind," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond;" from Greek meta (prep.) "in the midst of, in common with, by means of, in pursuit or quest of," from PIE *me- "in the middle" (cf. German mit, Gothic miþ, Old English mið "with, together with, among;" see mid). Notion of "changing places with" probably led to senses "change of place, order, or nature," which was a principal meaning of the Greek word when used as a prefix (but also denoting "community, participation; in common with; pursuing").

Third sense, "higher than, transcending, overarching, dealing with the most fundamental matters of," is due to misinterpretation of metaphysics as "science of that which transcends the physical." This has led to a prodigious erroneous extension in modern usage, with meta- affixed to the names of other sciences and disciplines, especially in the academic jargon of literary criticism, which affixes it to just about anything that moves and much that doesn't.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

meta in Medicine


  1. Later in time:metestrus.
  2. At a later stage of development:metanephros.
  3. Situated behind:metacarpus.
  4. Change; transformation:metachromatism.
  5. Alternation:metagenesis.
  6. Beyond; transcending; more comprehensive:metapsychology.
  7. At a higher state of development:metazoan.
  8. Having undergone metamorphosis:metamyelocyte.
  9. Derivative or related chemical substance:metaprotein.
  10. Of or relating to one of three possible isomers of a benzene ring with two attached chemical groups, in which the carbon atoms with attached groups are separated by one unsubstituted carbon atom. Usually used in italic:meta-dibromobenzene.
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The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.