Grammar. a word, phrase, or clause that seems to refer to or modify an unintended word because of its placement in a sentence, as when young in When young, circuses appeal to all of us.
Compare dangling participle.
Sometimes, as in the example above, a misplaced modifier can cause a temporarily puzzling or ludicrous reading of a passage; at other times it can result in ambiguity: Tall and handsome, the people looked at him with awe and admiration. Usually some rearrangement of elements, and occasionally an addition, can make relationships clear and unambiguous: Circuses appeal to all of us when young (or when we are young ). Because he was tall and handsome, the people looked at him with awe and admiration. See also dangling participle.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019
British Dictionary definitions for misplaced modifier
grammar a participle intended to modify a noun but having the wrong grammatical relationship to it as for example having left in the sentence Having left Europe for good, Peter's future seemed bleak indeedUsual US and Canadian name: dangling participle
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