Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day for January 5, 2020 is:

permutation • per-myoo-TAY-shun  • noun

1 : often major or fundamental change (as in character or condition) based primarily on rearrangement of existent elements; also : a form or variety resulting from such change

2 a : the act or process of changing the lineal order of an ordered set of objects

b : an ordered arrangement of a set of objects


“Scientists have performed many permutations of the original MHC study, but the results suggest that people choose mates that have MHC genes that are dissimilar to their own—although not too dissimilar.” — Caitlin O’Connell, Elephant Don: The Politics of a Pachyderm Posse, 2015

“Two weeks after Wilder and Ortiz meet in the ring, Joshua and Ruiz plan to fight again in Saudi Arabia, which could generate several permutations of follow-up bouts, depending on who wins.” — John Eligon, The New York Times, 22 Nov. 2019

Did you know?

Permutation has not changed all that much since it was borrowed into Middle English from Anglo-French as permutacioun, meaning “exchange, transformation.” Permutacioun traces back to the Latin verb permutare, meaning “to change thoroughly, exchange,” and ultimately derives from the Latin mutare, “to change.” Other descendants of mutare in English include commute, mutant, and mutual. Permutation also has a specific application in the field of mathematics relating to the ordering of a given set of objects. For example, permutations of items a, b, and c are abc, acb, bac, etc.

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