1570s, in grammar, "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 "change" (see meta-) + tithenai "to place, to set," from reduplicated form of PIE root *dhe- "to set, put." Plural is metatheses. Related: Metathetic; metathetical.
Entries linking to metathesis
word-forming element of Greek origin meaning 1. "after, behind; among, between," 2. "changed, altered," 3. "higher, beyond;" from Greek meta (prep.) "in the midst of; in common with; by means of; between; in pursuit or quest of; after, next after, behind," in compounds most often meaning "change" of place, condition, etc. This is from PIE *me- "in the middle" (source also of German mit, Gothic miþ, Old English mið "with, together with, among").
The notion of "changing places with" probably led to the senses of "change of place, order, or nature," which was a principal meaning of the Greek word when used as a prefix (but it also denoted "community, participation; in common with; pursuing").
The third, modern, sense, "higher than, transcending, overarching, dealing with the most fundamental matters of," is due to misinterpretation of metaphysics (q.v.) 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: Metalanguage (1936) "a language which supplies terms for the analysis of an 'object' language;" metalinguistics (by 1949); metahistory (1957), metacommunication, etc.
*dhē-, Proto-Indo-European root meaning "to set, put."
It forms all or part of: abdomen; abscond; affair; affect (v.1) "make a mental impression on;" affect (v.2) "make a pretense of;" affection; amplify; anathema; antithesis; apothecary; artifact; artifice; beatific; benefice; beneficence; beneficial; benefit; bibliothec; bodega; boutique; certify; chafe; chauffeur; comfit; condiment; confection; confetti; counterfeit; deed; deem; deface; defeasance; defeat; defect; deficient; difficulty; dignify; discomfit; do (v.); doom; -dom; duma; edifice; edify; efface; effect; efficacious; efficient; epithet; facade; face; facet; facial; -facient; facile; facilitate; facsimile; fact; faction (n.1) "political party;" -faction; factitious; factitive; factor; factory; factotum; faculty; fashion; feasible; feat; feature; feckless; fetish; -fic; fordo; forfeit; -fy; gratify; hacienda; hypothecate; hypothesis; incondite; indeed; infect; justify; malefactor; malfeasance; manufacture; metathesis; misfeasance; modify; mollify; multifarious; notify; nullify; office; officinal; omnifarious; orifice; parenthesis; perfect; petrify; pluperfect; pontifex; prefect; prima facie; proficient; profit; prosthesis; prothesis; purdah; putrefy; qualify; rarefy; recondite; rectify; refectory; sacrifice; salmagundi; samadhi; satisfy; sconce; suffice; sufficient; surface; surfeit; synthesis; tay; ticking (n.); theco-; thematic; theme; thesis; verify.
It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit dadhati "puts, places;" Avestan dadaiti "he puts;" Old Persian ada "he made;" Hittite dai- "to place;" Greek tithenai "to put, set, place;" Latin facere "to make, do; perform; bring about;" Lithuanian dėti "to put;" Polish dziać się "to be happening;" Russian delat' "to do;" Old High German tuon, German tun, Old English don "to do."