Guide to Literary Terms

Start Free Trial

What is the definition of malapropism?

The definition of malapropism is the substitution of a similar-sounding with or phrase in the place of the proper one.

Malapropism

Download PDF PDF Page Citation Cite Share Link Share

Last Updated on February 25, 2021, 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.

Writing an essay?
Get a custom outline

Our Essay Lab can help you tackle any essay assignment within seconds, whether you’re studying Macbeth or the American Revolution. Try it today!

Start an Essay

Incorrect example:

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
  • “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.


See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Previous

Literature

Next

Melodrama