Figure Name metathesis
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Isidore 2.21.34; Mosellanus a4r; Susenbrotus (1540) 23; Sherry (1550) 2 ("transposicio"); Peacham (1577) E3v; JG Smith (1665) ("metathesis"); Macbeth (1876); Holmes (1806) ("metathesis")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms transposicio, transposition, twisting
Etymology < post-classical Latin metathesis (3rd cent. in sense 1a; 13th cent. in a British source in sense 2a) or its etymon ancient Greek {mu}{epsilon}{tau}{gaacu}{theta}{epsilon}{sigma}{iota}{fsigma} transposition (in Hellenistic Greek in sense 1a) < {mu}{epsilon}{tau}{alpha}- META- prefix + {theta}{geacu}{sigma}{iota}{fsigma} THESIS n., after {mu}{epsilon}{tau}{alpha}{tau}{iota}{theta}{geacu}{nu}{alpha}{iota} to transpose, change. Compare Middle French, French métathèse (1587 in sense 1a, 1747 in sense 2b). (OED)
Type Scheme
Linguistic Domain Morphological

1. The transposition of letters within a word. A kind of metaplasm (and sometimes a kind of paronomasia.)(Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Transposition, or an alteration of the order of a thing: a figure whereby one letter is put for another.;
(Note in marg: Farnaby.) METATHESIS, Transpositio, Transposition. Transposition is a Grammar figure whereby one letter is put for another. (JG Smith)

3. Metathesis next claims attention, or Twisting, usually at the bidding of humor, of the letters of a word into some different order of arrangement. (Macbeth)

4. Metathesis a letter's place doth change, So that the word appear not new or strange. (Holmes)


1. Several transpositions of letters in the first two words make possible the last two words of this humorous statement:
"Elvis Lives in Evil Levis."
American spelling is often simply metathesis applied to the original British spelling:
"theatre" becomes "theater"
"centre" becomes "center" (Silva Rhetoricae)

3."O ever thus, from childhood's hour,
Has chilling fate upon me fell;
There always comes a soaking shower
When I hain't got an umberell." - Tom Moore (Macbeth)

3. It is not a bad guess of Dr. William Smith, that "Shakespeare seems to have formed the name Caliban, metathesis, from Canibal." (Macbeth)

4. Cruds for curds. (Holmes)

Kind Of Similarity
Part Of
Related Figures metaplasm, hyperbaton, Figures of Order, paranomasia
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Nayoung Hong
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No