Malapropism

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on March 17, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 148

A malapropism, or a Dogberryism, is when someone uses an incorrect, but similar-sounding word in the place of the correct word, often to humorous effect. In fiction, the use of a malapropism often shows a character to be poorly educated and/or lower class. The term malapropism comes from the 1775 play, “The Rivals” by Richard Sheridan wherein a Mrs. Malaprop often says wrong, but similar-sounding words to what she means. For instance: “Sure if I reprehend any thing in this world it is the use of my oracular tongue, and a nice derangement of epitaphs,” (Act 3 Scene III). Malaprop comes from the French-derived word “malapropos” meaning inappropriate.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Incorrect example:

  • “You have hissed the mystery lectures,” when someone, “you have missed the history lectures.”
  • This is not a malapropism, but a spoonerism. A spoonerism is when the initial sounds of two words are switched.

 

Explore all literary terms.


Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-hour free trial
Previous

Literature

Next

Melodrama