Meta-BMJ 2002; 324 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.324.7344.1022 (Published 27 April 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1022
- Jeff Aronson, clinical pharmacologist
Mr John Gleave, a neurosurgeon, has written to ask me the origin of the meta- in meta-analysis. The answer comes from Aristotle.
The Greek preposition μ(meta) had several meanings, depending on whether it governed the accusative, genitive, or dative case. With the accusative it could mean coming into or among, in pursuit of, or coming after in place or time; with the genitive it could mean in the midst of, between, or in common with; and with the dative it could mean in the company of or over and above. It was also used as a prefix to express such notions as sharing, being in the midst of, succession, pursuit, reversal, and (most commonly) change. Examples of the last include metabolism, metamorphosis, and metaplasia.
In scientific …