[ myoo-tey-shuhn ]
See synonyms for mutation on
  1. Biology.

    • Also called break . a sudden departure from the parent type in one or more heritable characteristics, caused by a change in a gene or a chromosome.

    • Also called sport . an individual, species, or the like, resulting from such a departure.

  2. the act or process of changing.

  1. a change or alteration, as in form or nature.

  2. Phonetics. umlaut.

  3. Linguistics. (in Celtic languages) syntactically determined morphophonemic phenomena that affect initial sounds of words.

Origin of mutation

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English mutacio(u)n, from Latin mūtātion- (stem of mūtātiō ) “a changing”; see mutate, -ion

Other words from mutation

  • mu·ta·tion·al, adjective
  • mu·ta·tion·al·ly, adverb
  • non·mu·ta·tion·al, adjective
  • non·mu·ta·tion·al·ly, adverb
  • un·mu·ta·tion·al, adjective

Words Nearby mutation Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use mutation in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for mutation


/ (mjuːˈteɪʃən) /

  1. the act or process of mutating; change; alteration

  2. a change or alteration

  1. a change in the chromosomes or genes of a cell. When this change occurs in the gametes the structure and development of the resultant offspring may be affected: See also inversion (def. 11)

  2. another word for mutant (def. 1)

  3. a physical characteristic of an individual resulting from this type of chromosomal change

  4. phonetics

    • (in Germanic languages) another name for umlaut

    • (in Celtic languages) a phonetic change in certain initial consonants caused by a preceding word

Derived forms of mutation

  • mutational, adjective
  • mutationally, adverb

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

Scientific definitions for mutation


[ myōō-tāshən ]

  1. A change in the structure of the genes or chromosomes of an organism. Mutations occurring in the reproductive cells, such as an egg or sperm, can be passed from one generation to the next. Most mutations occur in junk DNA and have no discernible effects on the survivability of an organism. Of the remaining mutations, the majority have harmful effects, while a minority can increase an organism's ability to survive. A mutation that benefits a species may evolve by means of natural selection into a trait shared by some or all members of the species. See Note at sickle cell anemia.

The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.