mal·​a·​prop·​ism ˈma-lə-ˌprä-ˌpi-zəm How to pronounce malapropism (audio)
: 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.
malapropist 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 On The Onion News Network, Riddle gained a legion of fans with his turn as the irascible, wildly opinionated Cressbeckler, whose predictions and political analysis were peppered with malapropisms and nonsequiturs. Mike Barnes, The Hollywood Reporter, 4 June 2023 The book, by Robert Horn (Tootsie), is peppered with puns and malapropisms. Christian Holub,, 5 Apr. 2023 So this was a particular set of circumstances, a true perfect storm: Congress, the pandemic, people’s kids, one deeply unfortunate malapropism, and race. Michael Tomasky, The New Republic, 3 Nov. 2021 How small is too small for someone with a shrinking fetish?), Gupta and Gelula begin to self-flagellate, blaming themselves for being too lazy to do research or for stumbling into some ridiculous malapropism. Sean Malin, Vulture, 4 Oct. 2021 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, 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, 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, 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,, 17 Apr. 2018 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'malapropism.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1826, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of malapropism was in 1826


Dictionary Entries Near malapropism

Cite this Entry

“Malapropism.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 1 Oct. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on malapropism

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!