mal·​a·​prop·​ism | \ ˈma-lə-ˌprä-ˌpi-zəm How to pronounce malapropism (audio) \

Definition of malapropism

1 : the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase especially : the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context "Jesus healing those leopards" is an example of malapropism.
2 : malaprop

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Other Words from malapropism

malapropist \ ˈma-​lə-​ˌprä-​pist How to pronounce malapropism (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Richard Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, was known for her verbal blunders. "He is the very pine-apple of politeness," she exclaimed, complimenting a courteous young man. Thinking of the geography of contiguous countries, she spoke of the "geometry" of "contagious countries," and she hoped that her daughter might "reprehend" the true meaning of what she was saying. She regretted that her "affluence" over her niece was small. The word malapropism derives from this blundering character's name, which Sheridan took from the French term mal à propos, meaning "inappropriate."

Examples of malapropism in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Every kid is a virtuoso of language: those monkey-hear toddler approximations, a six-year-old’s idiosyncratic pronunciations, the malapropisms that continue well into adolescence. Rumaan Alam, The New Yorker, "The Children Are Swearing More During Quarantine," 19 May 2020 The jokes of the post-9/11 moment, at least the ones offered by the mass media, were willful: Late-night hosts were soon back to mocking Britney Spears and the malapropisms of George W. Bush. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "Quarantine Is Changing the Way We Laugh," 2 Apr. 2020 Sharon Sachs brings a fair amount of flair to the role of malapropism-spouting university headmistress Madame Morrible, and Tom Flynn carries tragic gravitas as kindly professor Doctor Dillamond, a goat in an Oz increasingly unfriendly to animals. Sam Hurwitt, The Mercury News, "Review: Back in Bay Area, ‘Wicked’ is a stirring ode to resistance," 16 Aug. 2019 Helping to set matters straight for Claudio and Hero by uncovering Don John’s ruse is a Keystone Kops assemblage of inept constables in yellow parkas, led by the malapropism-prone Dogberry, portrayed by Simoes. Don Aucoin,, "A ‘Much Ado’ that brings Beyoncé to its battle of wits," 17 Apr. 2018 Arch-villain Stache (Trey Lyford) is a poet full of malapropisms. Hugh Hunter,, "'Peter and the Starcatcher' at Theatre Horizon: Unbridled, unpredictable, riotously funny," 4 May 2018 Another form of word climbing is mistaking and thereby misusing words owing to their mere sound, and thereby lapsing into malapropism—this to give the impression of cultivation and intellectual penetration. Joseph Epstein, WSJ, "If You’ve Heard One Cliché, You’ve Heard Them All," 13 Dec. 2017 By that measure, Mr. Manafort’s sartorial malapropisms were exactly right. Vanessa Friedman, New York Times, "$1.3 Million for That?," 4 Nov. 2017 This means that her characters often talk in winding syntax replete with malapropisms that would dismay Strunk and White. Ben Brantley, New York Times, "Review: ‘Raw Bacon’ Finds Fearful Poetry in an Iraq War Vet’s Mind," 7 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'malapropism.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of malapropism

1826, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for malapropism

Mrs. Malaprop, character noted for her misuse of words in R. B. Sheridan's comedy The Rivals (1775)

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The first known use of malapropism was in 1826

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Last Updated

20 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Malapropism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for malapropism



English Language Learners Definition of malapropism

: an amusing error that occurs when a person mistakenly uses a word that sounds like another word but that has a very different meaning

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Nglish: Translation of malapropism for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about malapropism

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