malapropism

[ mal-uh-prop-iz-uh m ]
/ ˈmæl ə prɒpˌɪz əm /

noun

an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.
an instance of this, as in “Lead the way and we'll precede.”

Origin of malapropism

First recorded in 1840–50; Malaprop + -ism

Related forms

mal·a·prop·is·tic, adjective
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

British Dictionary definitions for malapropism

malapropism

/ (ˈmæləprɒpˌɪzəm) /

noun

the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of similar sound, esp when creating a ridiculous effect, as in I am not under the affluence of alcohol
the habit of misusing words in this manner

Derived Forms

malaprop or malapropian, adjective

Word Origin for malapropism

C18: after Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775), a character who misused words, from malapropos
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

Culture definitions for malapropism

malapropism

[ (mal-uh-prop-iz-uhm) ]

A humorous confusion of words that sound vaguely similar, as in “We have just ended our physical year” instead of “We have just ended our fiscal year.”

Note

Mrs. Malaprop, a character in an eighteenth-century British comedy, The Rivals, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, constantly confuses words. Malapropisms are named after her.
The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.