Obligatory “I Can’t Sleep, I Need to Blog” Post: “Meta-“

by joanabagano

I want to share to you my favorite English prefix, “meta-“.


Meta- has four definitions in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

1. a : occurring later than or in succession to : after <metestrus>
b : situated behind or beyond <metencephalon> <metacarpus>
c : later or more highly organized or specialized form of <metaxylem>
2 : change : transformation <metaplasia>
3 [metaphysics] : more comprehensive : transcending <metapsychological> —usually used with the name of a discipline to designate a new but related discipline designed to deal critically with the original one <metamathematics>
a : involving substitution at or characterized by two positions in the benzene ring that are separated by one carbon atom <meta-xylene>

b : derived from by loss of water <metaphosphoric acid>
If you have observed it (which is a requirement), most of the definitions echo the word “beyond”.
Meta- is used for things that are farther from the vision and the point of reference. Throughout the year, I have made the prefix more personal so not to scare myself away whenever I encounter it in class or in books.
For me, meta- is looking into thin air and knowing something is there (this is not a horror story). It is seeing the veneer but knowing how complex and beautiful and busy things are under the epidermis. It is the rest of the iceberg in the ocean and well, the ecosystem underneath the surface, and other synonymous metaphors.
This four-letter prefix has helped remind me of the vast blueprint of my life and of course, the limited vision and understanding that I have of it. Meta- has been with me through times that I became mediocre (“meta- do it, Joana!”) and times that my patience was tested (“metawait, metawait”). If I have used it interchangeably with mega-, I don’t know. But I do know that there will always be something beyond and I am not being prevented from reaching out. Metalife, man, metalife.