spoonerism

noun
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)

What is the origin of spoonerism?

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 sound reversals became the stuff of legend—and undoubtedly gave his listeners many a laugh. By the end of the 19th century, 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 The Marty Peters and his spoonerism friends were great, but Delta Funk blew my socks off. Andy Larsen, The Salt Lake Tribune, 4 Mar. 2022 So lots of books with new subtitles, good idea/bad idea, new sports, spoonerism jokes. Washington Post, 9 May 2021 That lovely tribute by Loser Brian Allgar got ink not in our spoonerism contest, but in a later limerick challenge. Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2021 This week: Write an original Q-A joke featuring a spoonerism, the transposition of the beginnings of different words, as in the entries above from our 1995 contest. Washington Post, 18 Nov. 2021 Today’s Theme Three phrases that contain words whose first letters are M and W have those letters flipped to make a spoonerism-like, punny phrase. New York Times, 6 May 2020

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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The first known use of spoonerism was in 1892

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Dictionary Entries Near spoonerism

spooner

spoonerism

spoonerize

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Statistics for spoonerism

Last Updated

18 Mar 2022

Cite this Entry

“Spoonerism.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/spoonerism. Accessed 17 May. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on spoonerism

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about spoonerism

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