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A metaplasm[1] is a change in the orthography (and hence phonology) of a word. Originally it referred to techniques used in Ancient Greek and Latin poetry, or processes in those languages' grammar.

Sound change[edit]

Many poetic metaplasms are useful for describing processes in the natural development of languages:

  • Epenthesis, addition of a sound to a word:
  • Synalepha, two syllables becoming one, occurs by elision, crasis, synaeresis, or synizesis.
    • Elision ("contraction" in English grammar), removal of a sound:
    • Crasis (Ancient Greek contraction), coalescence of two vowels into a new long vowel.
    • Synaeresis, pronunciation of two vowels as a diphthong. Opposite: diaeresis, pronunciation of a diphthong as two syllabic vowels.
    • Synizesis, pronunciation of two vowels that do not form a normal diphthong as one syllable, without change in writing. Opposite: hiatus, distinct pronunciation of two adjacent vowels.
  • Metathesis, rearranging of sounds or features of sounds, may affect vowel lengths (quantitative metathesis).


In rhetoric, metaplasm is the modification of word order for emphasis.

Romance languages[edit]

In the grammar of the Romance languages, metaplasm refers to the change in the grammatical gender of nouns from their original gender in Latin.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ From Greek μεταπλασμός, from μεταπλάσσειν "mold into a different shape."