spoo·​ner·​ism | \ ˈspü-nə-ˌri-zəm How to pronounce spoonerism (audio) \

Definition of spoonerism

: a transposition of usually initial sounds of two or more words (as in tons of soil for sons of toil)

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Did You Know?

Poor William Archibald Spooner! That British clergyman and educator, who lived from 1844 to 1930, often had to speak in public, but he was a nervous man and his tongue frequently got tangled up. He would say things like "a blushing crow" when he meant "a crushing blow." Spooner's letter reversals became the stuff of legend-and undoubtedly gave his listeners many a laugh. By1900 his name had inspired the term spoonerism, which lives on to this day.

Examples of spoonerism in a Sentence

the spoonerism “tons of soil” for “sons of toil”

Recent Examples on the Web

Tariffs have consistently retained broad global support despite the spoonerism. The Economist, "Border terriersA survey finds support for both globalisation and import tariffs," 5 Sep. 2017

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

First Known Use of spoonerism

1892, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for spoonerism

William A. Spooner †1930 English clergyman & educator

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Time Traveler for spoonerism

The first known use of spoonerism was in 1892

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More Definitions for spoonerism



English Language Learners Definition of spoonerism

: a humorous mistake in which a speaker switches the first sounds of two or more words

More from Merriam-Webster on spoonerism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with spoonerism

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about spoonerism

Comments on spoonerism

What made you want to look up spoonerism? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to take the place or position of

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