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From French commutation, from Latin commūtātiōnem, accusative singular of commūtātiō.



commutation (countable and uncountable, plural commutations)

  1. (obsolete) A passing from one state to another; change; alteration; mutation.
  2. (obsolete) The act of giving one thing for another; barter; exchange.
  3. (formal or archaic) Substitution of one thing for another; interchange.
  4. Specifically, the substitution of one kind of payment for another, especially a switch to monetary payment from obligations of labour.
    • 1969, Philip Ziegler, The Black Death, Folio Society 2006, p. 213:
      Professor Postan has argued in favour of a rapid move towards commutation in the twelfth century which slackened or even went into reverse in the course of the thirteenth.
  5. (law) The change to a lesser penalty or punishment by the State
    • 1992, Hilary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety, Harper Perennial 2007, p. 23:
      Monsieur the Marquis de Sade [was] now holed up in one of his châteaux while his wife worked for the commutation of a sentence passed on him recently for poisoning and buggery.
  6. (linguistics) Substitution, as a means of discriminating between phonemes.
  7. (electronics) The reversal of an electric current.