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I think the statement under the heading "Traditional Meaning" ("In Greek, the prefix meta- is generally less esoteric than in English; Greek meta- is equivalent to the Latin words post- or ad-") is not correct.

Meta in classical Greek (in contrast to its quite different use in modern Greek) is not equivalent to the Latin post- or ad-. The primary meaning of meta in ancient Greek is not "after" or "toward" but "in the midst of, among, between". It has a number of different meanings, depending on context, the case of object when used as a preposition, and so forth. Only one of these (and a tertiary one not often found in Greek classical literature at that) is even approximately synonymous with the Latin post or ad.

See the Lidell and Scott Greek Dictionary definition of μετά for an authoritative reference.

I have not attempted to do any editing here at this time, only to post this comment for discussion.

Hopefully someone with deeper knowledge of ancient Greek than mine will step in.

However, if no one does, I may eventually venture an edit on my own, but only after a bit more research on the matter.

One reason why this is relevant is the commonly repeated statement that Aristotle's "Metaphysics" was originally named such simply because it was "after the physics." See, for example, the Wikipedia article on metaphysics. This notion is based the supposed equivalence of meta with the Latin post -- clearly, at best, a greatly over-simplified (if not downright wrong) assumption, per Liddel and Scott.

Canopusresearch (talk) 18:19, 28 July 2014 (UTC)

The first sentence of the second paragraph of the introduction needed to aspire to better grammatical number agreement. Prior to my edit it read:

"For example, metadata is data about data (who has produced them, when, what format the data are in and so on)."

I've gone ahead and changed it to read:

"For example, metadata are data about data (who has produced them, when, what format the data are in and so on)."

which is my preferred solution. Another solution would be:

"For example, metadata is data about data (who has produced it, when, what format the data is in and so on)."

If you don't like my solution or the alternative I've described then please reply to this post with your own solution. Schlemazl (talk) 22:32, 8 November 2011 (UTC)

I searched the Oxford English Dictionary Online for "metaposting" and "metanomic", but neither word was included. Also, neither word returned more than a thousand results on google. I felt that such esoteric words should be removed, so I did. Tigerford (talk) 18:58, 10 May 2008 (UTC)

What word or prefix can mean the opposite of meta? I am looking for a word that might be analagous to this> "micro" is to "macro" as "x" is to "meta" Any ideas? Katyism 20:18, 23 January 2007 (UTC)

If you look at some old versions of the page with the stuff deleted below, you'll see that Rucker has proposed "kata" (greek "down", contrast with meta=after) for something like this, but he's pretty alone. Since "meta" usually refers to some sort of abstraction, the opposite would be something like "concrete" or "literal".--Homunq 10:23, 24 January 2007 (UTC)

I thought this word ment "beyond". Is there any suport for that? — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs) 15:05, 28 April 2005 (UTC)

This is inscrutable stuff:

We read: Meta a direction orthogonal to x,y and z. So it's singular. Meta is the axes formed by what Rucker and others often refer to as Ana and Kata. So it's plural. Which? And who "Rucker and others", and in what context?

We read: Data about or processes operating on in the Hypercomputing Dictionary. Data about what, and processes operating on what? And what's the "Hypercomputing Dictionary"?

We read: To 'go meta' is to step orthogonally to the situation in order to grok additional layers of information that are affecting the decision making process. What does "step orthogonally to the situation" mean? -- Hoary 06:22, 2005 Apr 29 (UTC)

No answer yet, so I'm deleting this material. -- Hoary 12:32, 2005 May 5 (UTC)

I have a suspicion that the use of this prefix to indicate an extra layer of description was introduced by Douglas Hofstadter in his book [Godel Escher Bach] - does anyone know if it was used this way earlier? It certainly popularised it anyway. Theusername 13:29, 26 May 2006 (UTC)

Certainly not! The OED cites usage in this manner from as far back as 1941. --dmd 02:38, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

I like the idea-definition of taking about talking. Any use here? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:03, 7 May 2010 (UTC)

Question as a caption?[edit]

An encyclopedia should never ask questions to the reader. The answers should be given to the reader, and nothing more. The caption of the license plate picture is "What interpretations can you derive?" — Preceding unsigned comment added by Benzi455 (talkcontribs) 20:31, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Etymology section[edit]

I've extended the etymology section, and reworded what was there already, to explain how the prefix came to have its modern meaning in English. It is, after all, an interesting story. The use of the term "back-formation" in the original section implies a failure to understand what a back-formation actually is (or at least gave no indication of how it was one). More importantly I removed the following:

Meta- & Meso- are thought to have come into Greek together from a mutual cognate, which would further imply 'meta' to contain or be of the meaning   
"parallel". [A 1]

I think there may be something useful to be said here, but what was written seems very unclear. What, after all, is meant by "mutual cognate" (cogantes are inherently mutual) and how does this imply the meaning "parallel"? Unfortunately, I don't have a copy to hand of Partridge's dictionary. If anyone does, could they please make clear what was meant? Then we could reinstate the above if it's useful to do so. Thanks. garik (talk) 11:21, 3 April 2008 (UTC) modified by garik (talk) 19:42, 3 April 2008 (UTC)

Would someone like to tackle the potentially funny but also potentially long winded subject of explaining to whoever added a Citation Needed flag at the end of this section? It's actually kind of amusing. Might even make a good example in and of itself (or would that run the risk the actually ending up with a "citation needed" flag itself?) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:53, 30 July 2013 (UTC)


  1. ^ 'Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English' Eric Partridge ISBN-13: 978-0517414255

"metadata are data about data"[edit]

Shouldn't that be "is data"? Something about it sounds wrong. (talk) 01:12, 11 March 2010 (UTC)

According to this, it may depend where you live. In the UK, for example, it's still correct to say "Data are":

However, I've lived inthe UK my entire life and I still say "Data is", and the article itself admits that the language is in the process of changing in regards to this, so you might be more correct with "metadata is". (talk) 09:37, 15 March 2010 (UTC)

The term "more correct" isn't very helpful. Both are used frequently, and different people have different preferences. The only relevant question is which of the two options is least likely to look odd. I'd guess that "data is" is now the dominant form, so will look less unusual to the majority of readers. But it really doesn't matter much. As I say, both are used. It's not a matter of "correctness". garik (talk) 10:06, 15 March 2010 (UTC)
"Are" is correct. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:03, 3 January 2012 (UTC)

Proposal to include a history of meta/first recorded use of each meta-X.[edit]

When was the first recorded meta-concept? The first recorded meta-story? The first recorded meta-film? etc. I think would be a fascinating addition to this article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:27, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

με λενε σονια[edit]

με λενε σονια. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:41, 30 April 2013 (UTC)

New contemporary usage[edit]

It seems to me that there is a new usage of "meta" as its own word that is becoming quite common. "Meta" describes a joke or a concept in a popular art that steps outside the narrative and addresses the audience on a different level or from a different frame. The simplest example is when a character breaks the fourth wall. Or if a dialogue between two characters makes sense to the audience because of knowledge the audience has from outside the story, but would be nonsensical to the characters inside the narrative, it can be referred to as being "meta."

These are sort of off-the-cuff definitions and examples. I'm sure there has been higher-level thought put into this by smarter people than me. But I think that this usage deserves coverage in wikipedia, because I hear it more and more frequently. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2602:306:B85B:35F0:21C:B3FF:FEC3:2572 (talk) 19:46, 2 October 2014 (UTC)

I have removed my comment from this section, which was mostly just agreeing with the above poster, as I think that there is already an entry (Meta-fiction, Meta-narrative, or Meta-reference) that covers this contemporary usage well. CeraWithaC (talk) 09:56, 18 February 2016 (UTC)

Removed "CHANGE" from greek meaining of the word.[edit]

"change",[B 1] was placed in the greek definition. it may be a contemporary usage of meta. But not so in the original greek.

--Steamerandy (talk) 19:46, 8 November 2014 (UTC)


  1. ^ Thompson, Michael (1996). The Word Within the Word. Trillium Press. pp. 248, 330. ISBN 0-88092-203-6.

Use as a stand-alone word[edit]

We need to cover use of meta as a stand-alone word. This appears to have originated in the early hacker community (hacker in the sense of 'consummate and adaptive programmer', not 'system cracker') in the late 1960s and 1970s, probably also involving the university mathematics and philosophy crowds, since there was significant overlap. This is documented to a limited extent in The New Hacker's Dictionary (a.k.a. The Jargon File in its online form). It doesn't necessarily establish earliest usage in this manner, which might come from philosophy journals or something.  — SMcCandlish ¢ 😼  21:34, 8 July 2018 (UTC)

Removed Image[edit]

I'm not sure what the Sierpinski triangle has to do with Meta. The caption only says that it is an example of Meta, but doesn't elaborate. I'm removing this image, hope this doesn't offend anyone...Amitushtush (talk) 10:12, 21 May 2020 (UTC)