meta- Look up meta- at Dictionary.com
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" (cognates: 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.
metabolic (adj.) Look up metabolic at Dictionary.com
1845 in biological sense, from German metabolisch (1839), from Greek metabolikos "changeable," from metabole "a change, changing, a transition" (see metabolism). Used earlier in a general sense of "involving change" (1743). Related: Metabolically.
metabolism (n.) Look up metabolism at Dictionary.com
in physiology sense, 1878, from French métabolisme, from Greek metabole "a change," from metaballein "to change," from meta- "over" (see meta-) + ballein "to throw" (see ballistics).
metabolize (v.) Look up metabolize at Dictionary.com
1887 (transitive), 1934 (intransitive), from Greek metabole "a change" (see metabolism) + -ize. Related: Metabolized; metabolizing.
metacarpus (n.) Look up metacarpus at Dictionary.com
1650s, Modern Latin, from Greek metakarpion, from meta- (see meta-) + karpos "wrist" (see carpus). Related: Metacarpal.
metacommunication (n.) Look up metacommunication at Dictionary.com
1951, from meta- + communication.
metal (n.) Look up metal at Dictionary.com
mid-13c., from Old French metal "metal; material, substance, stuff" (12c.), from Latin metallum "metal; mine, quarry, mineral, what is got by mining," from Greek metallon "metal, ore" (senses only in post-classical texts; originally "mine, quarry, pit"), probably from metalleuein "to mine, to quarry," of unknown origin, but related somehow to metallan "to seek after." Compare Greek metalleutes "a miner," metalleia "a searching for metals, mining."
metal (adj.) Look up metal at Dictionary.com
late 14c., from metal (n.).
metallic (adj.) Look up metallic at Dictionary.com
1560s, from Middle French métallique or directly from Latin metallicus, from Greek metallikos, from metallon (see metal).
metallurgy (n.) Look up metallurgy at Dictionary.com
1704, from Modern Latin metallurgia, from Greek metallourgos "worker in metal," from metallon "metal" (see metal) + ergon "work" (see organ). Related: Metallurgical; metallurgist.
metamathematics (n.) Look up metamathematics at Dictionary.com
1890, from meta- + mathematics.
metamorphic (adj.) Look up metamorphic at Dictionary.com
1833 (Lyell) in the geological sense, in reference to rock whose form has been changed by heat or pressure, from metamorphosis + -ic. Earlier (1816) in non-technical sense "characterized by change."
metamorphism (n.) Look up metamorphism at Dictionary.com
1837, from metamorphic + -ism.
metamorphize (v.) Look up metamorphize at Dictionary.com
"metamorphose," 1590s, from Greek meta (see meta-) + morphe (see Morpheus) + -ize. Related: Metamorphized; metamorphizing. Alternative verbal form metamorphosize attested from 1841.
metamorphose (v.) Look up metamorphose at Dictionary.com
1570s, from Middle French métamorphoser (16c.), from métamorphose (n.), from Latin metamorphosis (see metamorphosis). Related: Metamorphosed. The Greek verb was metamorphoun.
metamorphosis (n.) Look up metamorphosis at Dictionary.com
1530s, "change of form or shape," especially by witchcraft, from Latin metamorphosis, from Greek metamorphosis "a transforming, a transformation," from metamorphoun "to transform, to be transfigured," from meta- "change" (see meta-) + morphe "form" (see Morpheus). Biological sense is from 1660s. As the title of Ovid's work, late 14c., Metamorphoseos, from Latin Metamorphoses (plural).
metanalysis (n.) Look up metanalysis at Dictionary.com
1914, from meta- + analysis. Coined by Danish philologist Otto Jespersen (1860-1943).
metanoia (n.) Look up metanoia at Dictionary.com
1768, "penitence, spiritual conversion," from Greek metanoia "afterthought, repentance," from metanoein "to change one's mind or purpose," from meta- (see meta) + noein "to have mental perception," from noos "mind, thought."
metaphor (n.) Look up metaphor at Dictionary.com
late 15c., from Middle French metaphore (Old French metafore, 13c.), and directly from Latin metaphora, from Greek metaphora "a transfer," especially of the sense of one word to a different word, literally "a carrying over," from metapherein "transfer, carry over; change, alter; to use a word in a strange sense," from meta- "over, across" (see meta-) + pherein "to carry, bear" (see infer).
metaphoric (adj.) Look up metaphoric at Dictionary.com
1590s, from metaphor + -ic. Greek metaphorikos meant "apt at metaphors."
metaphorical (adj.) Look up metaphorical at Dictionary.com
1550s, from metaphor + -ical. Related: metaphorically.
metaphrastic (adj.) Look up metaphrastic at Dictionary.com
1778, from Greek metaphrastikos "paraphrastic," from metaphrasis "paraphrase," from metaphrazein "to paraphrase, translate," from meta- (see meta-) + phrazein "to show, tell" (see phrase (n.)). Related: metaphrastically (1570s).
metaphysic (n.) Look up metaphysic at Dictionary.com
late 14c., from Medieval Latin metaphysica (see metaphysics). The usual form of metaphysics until 16c.; somewhat revived 19c. under German influence.
metaphysical (adj.) Look up metaphysical at Dictionary.com
early 15c., "pertaining to metaphysics," from methaphesik (late 14c.) + -al, and in part from Medieval Latin metaphysicalis, from Medieval Latin metaphysica (see metaphysics). It came to be used in the sense of "abstract, speculative" (among others by Johnson, who applied it to certain 17c. poets, notably Donne and Cowley, who used "witty conceits" and abstruse imagery). Related: Metaphysically.
metaphysician (n.) Look up metaphysician at Dictionary.com
1590s, from Middle French métaphysicien (14c.); see metaphysics + -ian.
metaphysics (n.) Look up metaphysics at Dictionary.com
1560s, plural of Middle English metaphisik, methaphesik (late 14c.), "branch of speculation which deals with the first causes of things," from Medieval Latin metaphysica, neuter plural of Medieval Greek (ta) metaphysika, from Greek ta meta ta physika "the (works) after the Physics," title of the 13 treatises which traditionally were arranged after those on physics and natural sciences in Aristotle's writings. The name was given c.70 B.C.E. by Andronicus of Rhodes, and was a reference to the customary ordering of the books, but it was misinterpreted by Latin writers as meaning "the science of what is beyond the physical." See meta- + physics. The word originally was used in English in the singular; plural form predominated after 17c., but singular made a comeback late 19c. in certain usages under German influence.
metapolitics (n.) Look up metapolitics at Dictionary.com
1784, "abstract political science;" see meta- + politics. Related: metapolitical, attested from 1670s in sense "outside the realm of politics."
metastasis (n.) Look up metastasis at Dictionary.com
1570s, originally in rhetoric, from Late Latin metastasis "transition," from Greek metastasis "a removing, removal; migration; a changing; change, revolution," from methistanai "to remove, change," from meta- "over, across" (see meta-) + histanai "to place, cause to stand," from PIE root *sta- "to stand" (see stet). A rhetorical term in Late Latin for "a sudden transition in subjects," medical use for "shift of disease from one part of the body to another" dates from 1660s in English. Related: Metastatic.
metastasise (v.) Look up metastasise at Dictionary.com
chiefly British English spelling of metastasize. Related: Metastasised; metastasising.
metastasize Look up metastasize at Dictionary.com
1826, from metastasis + -ize. Related: Metastasized; metastasizing.
metatarsal (adj.) Look up metatarsal at Dictionary.com
1739, from metatarsus (1670s), from Modern Latin metatarsus, from meta- (see meta-) + tarsus (see tarsus). As a noun from 1854.
metathesis (n.) Look up metathesis at Dictionary.com
1570s, "transposition of letters in a word;" c.1600, "rhetorical transposition of words," from Late Latin metathesis, from Greek metathesis "change of position, transposition, change of opinion," from stem of metatithenai "to transpose," from meta- "to change" (see meta-) + tithenai "to place, set" (see theme). Plural is metatheses. Related: Metathetic.
metathesize (v.) Look up metathesize at Dictionary.com
1893, from metathesis + -ize. Related: Metathesized; metathesizing.
mete (v.) Look up mete at Dictionary.com
"to allot," Old English metan "to measure, mete out; compare, estimate" (class V strong verb; past tense mæt, past participle meten), from Proto-Germanic *metan (cognates: Old Saxon metan, Old Frisian, Old Norse meta, Dutch meten, Old High German mezzan, German messen, Gothic mitan "to measure"), from PIE *med- "to take appropriate measures" (see medical). Used now only with out. Related: Meted; meting.
mete (n.) Look up mete at Dictionary.com
"boundary," now only in phrase metes and bounds, late 15c., from Old French mete "limit, bounds, frontier," from Latin meta "goal, boundary, post, pillar."
metempsychosis (n.) Look up metempsychosis at Dictionary.com
1580s, "passing of the soul at death into another body," from Late Latin metempsychosis, from Greek metempsychosis, from meta "change" (see meta-) + empsykhoun "to put a soul into," from en "in" + psyche "soul" (see psyche). Pythagorean word for transmigration of souls at death. Related: Metempsychose (v.), 1590s.
meteor (n.) Look up meteor at Dictionary.com
late 15c., "any atmospheric phenomenon," from Middle French meteore (13c.) and directly from Medieval Latin meteorum (nominative meteora), from Greek ta meteora "the celestial phenomena, things in heaven above," plural of meteoron, literally "thing high up," noun use of neuter of meteoros (adj.) "high up, raised from the ground, hanging," from meta- "over, beyond" (see meta-) + -aoros "lifted, hovering in air," related to aeirein "to raise" (see aorta).

Specific sense of "fireball, shooting star" is attested from 1590s. Atmospheric phenomena were formerly classified as aerial meteors (wind), aqueous meteors (rain, snow, hail), luminous meteors (aurora, rainbows), and igneous meteors (lightning, shooting stars).
meteoric (adj.) Look up meteoric at Dictionary.com
1812, "pertaining to meteors;" earlier "dependent on atmospheric conditions" (1789), from meteor + -ic. Figurative sense of "transiently brilliant" is from 1836.
meteorite (n.) Look up meteorite at Dictionary.com
"rock that falls to earth, after streaking across the sky as a meteor," 1818, from meteor + -ite.
meteoroid (n.) Look up meteoroid at Dictionary.com
"rock floating in space, which becomes a meteor when it enters Earth's atmosphere," formed in English, 1865, from meteor + -oid.
meteorological (adj.) Look up meteorological at Dictionary.com
1560s, from Middle French météorologique or Greek meteorologikos; see meteorology + -ical. Related: Meteorologically.
meteorologist (n.) Look up meteorologist at Dictionary.com
1620s, from meteorology + -ist. Earlier was meteorologician (1570s). Greek meteorologos meant "one who deals with celestial phenomena, astronomer."
meteorology (n.) Look up meteorology at Dictionary.com
"science of the atmosphere, weather forecasting," 1610s, from French météorologie and directly from Greek meteorologia "treatise on celestial phenomena, discussion of high things," from meteoron, literally "thing high up" (see meteor), + -logia "treatment of" (see -logy).
meter (n.1) Look up meter at Dictionary.com
also metre, "poetic measure," Old English meter "meter, versification," from Latin metrum, from Greek metron "meter, a verse; that by which anything is measured; measure, length, size, limit, proportion," from PIE root *me- (2) "to measure" (see meter (n.2)). Possibly reborrowed early 14c. (after a 300-year gap in recorded use) from Old French metre, with specific sense of "metrical scheme in verse," from Latin metrum.
meter (n.2) Look up meter at Dictionary.com
also metre, unit of length, 1797, from French mètre (18c.), from Greek metron "measure," from PIE root *me- (2) "to measure" (cognates: Greek metra "lot, portion," Sanskrit mati "measures," matra "measure," Avestan, Old Persian ma-, Latin metri "to measure"). Developed by French Academy of Sciences for system of weights and measures based on a decimal system originated 1670 by French clergyman Gabriel Mouton. Originally intended to be one ten-millionth of the length of a quadrant of the meridian.
meter (n.3) Look up meter at Dictionary.com
"device for measuring," abstracted 1832 from gas-meter, etc., from French -mètre, used in combinations (in English from 1790), from Latin metrum "measure" or cognate Greek metron "measure" (see meter (n.2)). Influenced by English meter "person who measures" (late 14c., agent noun from mete (v.)). As short for parking meter from 1960. Meter maid first recorded 1957; meter reader 1963.
meter (v.) Look up meter at Dictionary.com
"to measure by means of a meter," 1884, from meter (n.3). Meaning "install parking meters" is from 1957.
meth (n.) Look up meth at Dictionary.com
colloquial abbreviation of methedrine, attested from 1967.
methadone (n.) Look up methadone at Dictionary.com
1947, generic designation for 6-dimethylamino-4, 4-diphenyl-3-heptanone. For origins of the syllables, see methyl + amino + di- + -one.
methamphetamine (n.) Look up methamphetamine at Dictionary.com
1949, from methyl + amphetamine; so called because it was a methyl derivative of amphetamine.