Morph as a verb is a recent coinage, but as as Google Books clearly shows, its usage literally shot up from the start and has increased constantly.

Morph: as a noun, in biology, 1955; as a verb, in cinematic special effects, c. 1987, short for metamorphosis. (Etymonline)

also, from Vocabulary.com, morph :

As a verb, it has only been around since the 1980s, when computers allowed animators to make things change shape in an apparently seamlessly way.

It appears from the above source that the verbal form was coined by a screenwriter or a videogame developer in the ‘80s, which, given the increasing popularity of the term, was probably a very successful one.

I couldn’t find more details about its origin, so can anyone help pin down when and by whom this verbal form first used, given the relative short history of the expression?

  • 1
    the name of THE person?
    – lbf
    Nov 30, 2018 at 15:16
  • @lbf - not necessarily, even though for recent coinages it is sometimes possible to find the name of the person (writer, journalist etc.) who first used it. Btw, what’s unclear about my question?
    – user 66974
    Nov 30, 2018 at 15:39
  • But as a verb (unlike the noun entry you provide) it would be a shortening of metamorphose. And that word has apparently been around since 1570. Are you asking for when the short form first appeared? Nov 30, 2018 at 17:41
  • @JasonBassford - that’s related but with different connotation and usage. The question is about “to morph.”
    – user 66974
    Nov 30, 2018 at 17:55
  • But your question doesn't make that distinction. (The text to morph doesn't appear anywhere.) I 'm also not sure that there's any significant grammatical distinction when it comes to the verb itself. I walk to the store versus I am going to walk to the store. The verb walk is still the same. Nov 30, 2018 at 18:00

2 Answers 2


It looks to me like like the etymology is a little more complicated, with "morph" as a verb also being used early on in a gaming context at least as far back as 1982:

A staff of polymorph can help too if you morph him into something ‘easy’.
Re; Killing Umbers in net.games.rogue (Usenet newsgroup) 15 Sept.

The game they're talking about here is Rogue (1980), and staffs of Polymorph are used to change monster type, which was probably based off the Polymorph spells from the pen and paper role playing game Dungeons and Dragons or its predecessor, Chainmail. Given that Chainmail was released in 1971, I wouldn't be surprised if there were earlier examples out there.

The OED doesn't have any other examples from before 1991. I was however able to find "morphing" in a computer graphics context in 1990:

Morphing Animation created by changing the shape of an object through gradual metamorphosis.
Amiga Resource, June 1990


First used by an artist, J. Karl Bogartte, when referring to his copy machine collages in the early '70s. He called this work "Photomorphosis" (the word abandoned by scientists and replaced with Photomorphogenesis). When he was working, he called the process "morphing" and making "morphs" - Never copyrighted.

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