Definition of spoonerism in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈspuːnərɪz(ə)m/


A verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect, as in the sentence you have hissed the mystery lectures.
Example sentences
  • The best-known of these are the sound transpositions called spoonerisms.
  • Malapropisms and spoonerisms add colour to language.
  • They speak in spoonerisms and malapropisms and put forward bizarre concepts and beliefs.


Early 20th century: named after the Revd W. A. Spooner (1844–1930), an English scholar who reputedly made such errors in speaking.

  • A spoonerism is a verbal error in which you accidentally swap round the initial parts of two words, as in ‘Our queer old dean’ instead of ‘Our dear old queen’. The term comes from the name of the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844–1930), an Oxford academic who was reputedly prone to such slips of the tongue, although there is no hard evidence he said many of the things attributed to him. A classic ‘spoonerism’ associated with him was ‘You have tasted your worm, you have hissed my mystery lectures, and you must leave by the first town drain’, supposedly said to an idle student.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: spoon¦er|ism

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