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[mal-uh-prop-iz-uh m] /ˈmæl ə prɒpˌɪz əm/
an act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.
an instance of this, as in “Lead the way and we'll precede.”.
1840-50; Malaprop + -ism
Related forms
malapropistic, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for malapropism
  • Malaprop, or malapropism, is the term for misspoken words.
  • Fowler labeled it a malapropism, but it is still widely regarded as incorrect.
  • Thankfully, the Times realises that some people are malapropism aficionados.
  • Like any good malapropism, this was a blunder that encapsulated a truth.
British Dictionary definitions for malapropism


the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one of similar sound, esp when creating a ridiculous effect, as in I am not under the affluence of alcohol
the habit of misusing words in this manner
Derived Forms
malaprop, malapropian, adjective
Word Origin
C18: after Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775), a character who misused words, from malapropos
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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Word Origin and History for malapropism

1826, from Mrs. Malaprop, character in Sheridan's play "The Rivals" (1775), noted for her ridiculous misuse of large words (e.g. "contagious countries" for "contiguous countries"), her name coined from malapropos.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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malapropism in Culture
malapropism [(mal-uh-prop-iz-uhm)]

A humorous confusion of words that sound vaguely similar, as in “We have just ended our physical year” instead of “We have just ended our fiscal year.”

Note: Mrs. Malaprop, a character in an eighteenth-century British comedy, The Rivals, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, constantly confuses words. Malapropisms are named after her.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Encyclopedia Article for malapropism

verbal blunder in which one word is replaced by another similar in sound but different in meaning. Although William Shakespeare had used the device for comic effect, the term derives from Richard Brinsley Sheridan's character Mrs. Malaprop, in his play The Rivals (1775). Her name is taken from the term malapropos (French: "inappropriate") and is typical of Sheridan's practice of concocting names to indicate the essence of a character. Thinking of the geography of contiguous countries, she spoke of the "geometry" of "contagious countries," and hoped that her daughter might "reprehend" the true meaning of what she is saying. She regretted that her "affluence" over her niece was very small

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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