Definition of mutation in US English:



  • 1The action or process of mutating.

    ‘the mutation of cooking into a form of show business’
    ‘his first novel went through several mutations’
    • ‘It commits the artist to a descent into time, into the processes of mutation, decay and dissolution.’
    • ‘As a matter of fact, the functions of books have undergone a process of mutation, and the underlying motivating force is now nothing but the soaring prices.’
    • ‘The course of development can, however, be altered by mutation.’
    • ‘So it becomes clear that the solution to this problem is not in some political consciousness but in mutation of human consciousness.’
    • ‘Rather they evolved through a century-long process of mutation.’
    • ‘He acknowledges his political mutation but says there was no epiphany.’
    • ‘Singer notes well the various analogies between mutation and more prosaic political and cultural concerns.’
    • ‘Variation accumulates over time through a random process of mutation.’
    • ‘It was the launch on September 30 of the tabloid-shaped Independent that has been the catalyst for what surely amounts to a long-term newspaper industry mutation.’
    • ‘They have been berated for being bland, boring, meandering and, most mystifying of all, not playing trance or whatever this week's essential dancefloor mutation is.’
    alteration, change, variation, modification, transformation, metamorphosis, transmutation, transfiguration, sea change, evolution
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  • 2The changing of the structure of a gene, resulting in a variant form that may be transmitted to subsequent generations, caused by the alteration of single base units in DNA, or the deletion, insertion, or rearrangement of larger sections of genes or chromosomes.

    ‘mutation is, ultimately, the only way in which new variation enters the species’
    • ‘Perhaps the best demonstration of this comes from studies of mutation in reporter genes in transgenic mice.’
    • ‘Mere mutation of the gene structure cannot fully explain the ‘spiritual’ evolution of species.’
    • ‘Random mutation is inevitable because mutation is a natural phenomenon.’
    • ‘Genes can also be inactivated by mutation and subsequently deleted.’
    • ‘Only after the first several million generations has mutation added enough variability to reach the equilibrium.’
    • ‘Throughout this section, we are concerned with the effective size for a single neutral locus without mutation.’
    • ‘Second, mathematical geneticists showed that the gene frequency change by mutation is much smaller than the change by natural selection.’
    • ‘Dynamics of focus formation can be affected by mutation of genes involved in DNA metabolism.’
    • ‘First, new mod variants can arise by mutation and spread by drift.’
    • ‘The same pattern appears in tumor-associated genes undergoing either loss-of-function mutation or rearrangements.’
    • ‘The main forces of evolution - mutation and natural selection - can be described by precise mathematical equations.’
    • ‘The gene mutation appears to work by restricting calorie absorption at the cellular level.’
    • ‘Cadmium compounds are inactive or weakly active in gene mutation and other genotoxicity assays.’
    • ‘Damage caused to DNA may, in turn, induce mutation and chromosome abnormalities of the meristem cells.’
    • ‘By the 60th cycle, the typical cell had four to five of the target genes inactivated by mutation.’
    • ‘In the absence of recombination and back mutation, the lost chromosome class cannot be regenerated.’
    alteration, change, variation, modification, transformation, metamorphosis, transmutation, transfiguration, sea change, evolution
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    1. 2.1 A distinct form resulting from a change in the structure of a gene.
      ‘whether his goats were a new mutation or part of an older breed remains unclear’
      • ‘Kidney tumors and estrogen-treated kidneys have mutations in microsatellites.’
      • ‘For example, when a single favorable mutation arises and spreads, it carries with it any linked variants.’
      • ‘It is important to realize that mutations in different mutant individuals are not necessarily distinct.’
      • ‘The first is that this was a naturally occurring mutation in the Siamese.’
      • ‘In this example mutations accrue successively, starting with the most beneficial single mutation.’
      • ‘The probability of producing a subsequent beneficial mutation will then also increase.’
      mutant, variant, variation, freak, freak of nature, deviant, monstrosity, monster, deformity
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  • 3Linguistics
    Regular change of a sound when it occurs adjacent to another.

    1. 3.1 (in Germanic languages) the process by which the quality of a vowel was altered in certain phonetic contexts; umlaut.
    2. 3.2 (in Celtic languages) change of an initial consonant in a word caused (historically) by the preceding word.
      See also lenition


Late Middle English: from Latin mutatio(n-), from mutare ‘to change’.