Idocs Guide to HTML

The Word "META": Meaning and Pronunciation

Sooner or later in a discussion of <META ...> you're likely to wonder "what's this weird word mean anyway?". To answer this I spoke with Frederick M. Ahl, professor of ancient Greek literature at the Cornell University Classics Department. Professor Ahl says meta is a prefix (not a word on its own) which means "behind" or "hidden". Meta implies the part of something that is not immediately visible, is in the background, but which is there nonetheless and has an effect. We get the word metaphysics, the study of the non-physical universe, from meta.

I also searched for an answer to the pronunciation of meta. Professor Ahl says that the Greek word is pronounced "METT-uh", but he also points out that we are not bound to follow the pronunciation of the ancient Greeks. So I conducted some informal polls and searches of the newsgroups. It turns out there are three common pronunciations: METT-uh, MAY-tuh, and MEE-tuh. Interestingly, many people feel that "their" way is the "right way" (that's human nature for you) and have never heard anyone pronounce it differently. In the end, any of the three is as correct as the others.

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