Definition of malapropism in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈmaləprɒˌpɪz(ə)m/
(US also malaprop)


The mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with an amusing effect (e.g. ‘dance a flamingoinstead of flamenco).
Example sentences
  • Finally, it's also something like a malapropism, where a word is mistakenly substituted for one of similar sound shape.
  • They speak in spoonerisms and malapropisms and put forward bizarre concepts and beliefs.
  • Each day has a statement containing spoonerisms, malapropisms, contradictions, strange and unrelated facts, and misuse of words.
wrong word, solecism, error, misuse, misusage, misapplication, infelicity, slip of the tongue


Mid 19th century: from the name of the character Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775) + -ism.

  • ‘As headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile’ are some of the words of Mrs Malaprop, a character in The Rivals, a comedy by Richard Sheridan produced in 1775. Her most notable characteristic is an aptitude to misapply long words. The play was a great success, and the character clearly memorable, giving English the malapropism. Sheridan had based her name on the earlier term malapropos (mid 17th century) from French mal à propos ‘inappropriate’. See also spoonerism

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