[mal-uh-prop-iz-uh m]
See more 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
Related formsmal·a·prop·is·tic, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for malapropism


  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
Derived Formsmalaprop 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

Word Origin and History for malapropism

1826, from Mrs. Malaprop, character in Sheridan's play "The Rivals" (1775), noted for her ridiculous misuse of large words (e.g. "contagious countries" for "contiguous countries"), her name coined from malapropos.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

malapropism in Culture



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.”


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.