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 formsper·mu·ta·tion·al, adjectiveper·mu·ta·tion·ist, noun

Synonyms for permutation Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Related Words for permutation

modification, shift, alteration, transformation

Examples from the Web for permutation

Historical Examples of permutation

  • What artifice can we then employ to provoke this second permutation?

  • The first permutation makes the second seem very probable, although I cannot as yet conceive a means of realizing it.

  • 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.

British Dictionary definitions for permutation



  1. an ordered arrangement of the numbers, terms, etc, of a set into specified groupsthe 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)!Symbol: n P r Compare combination (def. 6)
a combination of items made by reordering
an alteration; transformation
a fixed combination for selections of results on football poolsUsually shortened to: perm
Derived Formspermutational, adjective

Word Origin for permutation

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

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