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[kom-yuh-tey-shuh n] /ˌkɒm yəˈteɪ ʃən/
the act of substituting one thing for another; substitution; exchange.
the changing of a prison sentence or other penalty to another less severe.
the act of commuting, as to and from a place of work.
the substitution of one kind of payment for another.
Electricity. the act or process of commutating.
Also called commutation test. Linguistics. the technique, especially in phonological analysis, of substituting one linguistic item for another while keeping the surrounding elements constant, used as a means of determining the constituent units in a sequence and their contrasts with other units.
late Middle English
1400-50; late Middle English commutacioun < Latin commūtātiōn- (stem of commutātiō) change. See commute, -ation
Related forms
procommutation, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for commutation
  • In each case the commutation was granted because, as was stated, of the prisoner's age and state of health.
  • Appeals and commutation are integral parts of the process.
  • Counsel asked for a commutation of sentence on the ground of insanity.
  • All applications for pardon, commutation of sentence, or reprieve shall be made in writing to the adult parole authority.
  • Thus a shortcut method of tabulating certain auxiliary values called commutation functions is used.
British Dictionary definitions for commutation


a substitution or exchange
  1. the replacement of one method of payment by another
  2. the payment substituted
the reduction in severity of a penalty imposed by law
the process of commutating an electric current
(US) the travelling done by a commuter
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for commutation

mid-15c., from Old French commutacion "change, transformation, exchange, barter" (13c., Modern French commutation), from Latin commutationem (nominative commutatio) "a change, alteration," noun of action from past participle stem of commutare "to change, alter entirely" (see commute (v.)).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for commutation

in law, shortening of a term of punishment or lowering of the level of punishment. For example, a 10-year jail sentence may be commuted to 5 years, or a sentence of death may be commuted to life in prison. Often, after a person has served part of his sentence, the remainder is commuted owing to specific circumstances. Commutation of sentence differs from pardon, which, if unconditional, removes the stigma both of the court decision and of the punishment and restores the person's civil rights; commutation does neither. Commutation is also distinguished from reprieve, which merely delays or temporarily suspends the sentence

Learn more about commutation with a free trial on
Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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