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folk etymology

noun
1.
a modification of a linguistic form according either to a falsely assumed etymology, as Welsh rarebit from Welsh rabbit, or to a historically irrelevant analogy, as bridegroom from bridegome.
2.
a popular but false notion of the origin of a word.
Origin of folk etymology
1880-1885
1880-85
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2016.
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Examples from the Web for folk-etymology
Historical Examples
  • But the story of Tuna gives no folk-etymology of the name Tuna.

    Modern Mythology Andrew Lang
  • But occasionally the results of folk-etymology are literally preposterous.

  • When folk-etymology and contamination work together, the result is sometimes bewildering.

  • The companion-ladder on ship-board is a product of folk-etymology.

  • The latter word is in French dame-jeanne, but both forms are possibly due to folk-etymology.

  • The Tuna story is described as ‘a clear case of disease of language cured by the ordinary nostrum of folk-etymology.’

    Modern Mythology Andrew Lang
  • We must never confuse such myths of folk-etymology with myths arising (on the philological hypothesis) from ‘disease of language.’

    Modern Mythology Andrew Lang
  • Now, to give an etymology of a name of forgotten meaning is the sole object of folk-etymology.

    Modern Mythology Andrew Lang
  • This historical connection is most probably due to folk-etymology.

    The Romance of Names Ernest Weekley
  • The explanation of lugsail as a sail that is lugged seems to be a piece of folk-etymology.

British Dictionary definitions for folk-etymology

folk etymology

noun
1.
the gradual change in the form of a word through the influence of a more familiar word or phrase with which it becomes associated, as for example sparrow-grass for asparagus
2.
a popular but erroneous conception of the origin of a word
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Difficulty index for folk etymology

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for folk

11
12
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