[ mal-uh-prop-iz-uhm ]
See synonyms for malapropism on
  1. an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.

  2. an instance of this, as in “Lead the way and we'll precede.”

Origin of malapropism

First recorded in 1840–50; Malaprop + -ism

Other words from malapropism

  • mal·a·prop·is·tic, adjective

Words Nearby malapropism Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

British Dictionary definitions for malapropism


/ (ˈmæləprɒpˌɪzəm) /

  1. 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

  2. the habit of misusing words in this manner

Origin of malapropism

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

Derived forms of malapropism

  • malaprop or malapropian, adjective

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

Cultural definitions for 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.”

Notes for malapropism

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.