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.

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Other Words from malapropism

malapropist \ ˈma-​lə-​ˌprä-​pist How to pronounce malapropist (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 Improvised pre-electoral wordsmithing has produced an all-time award-winning marathon champion in miscues, malapropisms, and fabrications in Joe Biden. Conrad Black, National Review, "Today’s Campaign Rhetoric Is Not Exactly Cicero," 13 Aug. 2019 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 Its Obama was a bit cold and aloof, its Hillary Clinton a relentless striver, and its George W. Bush a malapropism-spouting manchild. Todd Vanderwerff, Vox, "So it’s come to this: a defense of SNL’s over-obvious sendup of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh," 3 Oct. 2018 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 Trump, to borrow George W. Bush’s famous malapropism. Alexander Nazaryan, Newsweek, "Can Donald Trump, the Most Unpopular President Ever, Save Republicans From a Massive Defeat in 2018?," 21 Feb. 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

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

1830, 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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Time Traveler for malapropism

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The first known use of malapropism was in 1830

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Last Updated

1 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Malapropism.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 11 December 2019.

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More Definitions for malapropism


How to pronounce malapropism (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on malapropism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with malapropism

Spanish Central: Translation of malapropism

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

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