All terms

What is a Malapropism?

The unintentional misuse or substitution of a word for a similar-sounding one, often resulting in a humorous or nonsensical phrase.

Making Mischief with Malapropisms!

Malapropism, a term coined by the English playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan, is a writing device that relies on the confusion of similar-sounding words to produce humorous or nonsensical effects.

As a technique, a writer might intentionally use a malapropism to create comedic effect; however, it more frequently arises inadvertently in situations where the speaker or writer is misinformed or merely seeks to appear well informed.

Consequently, malapropisms can be a valuable tool of satirists and comedy writers alike! Moreover, they exist not as errors to be entirely eliminated from writing and speech, but rather as a way to encounter English with a sense of joy, humor, and wit!

Malapropisms in Literature: From Shakespeare to Austen

Malapropisms infuse literature with a delightful sense of humor and whimsy.

The Rivals by Richard Brinsley Sheridan

In this classic work of drama, malapropisms serve as a signature trait of the character, Mrs. Malaprop, who consistently substitutes similar-sounding words for their intended meaning, rendering her true meaning absurdly nonsensical.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

In this beloved novel of manners, the character Mr. Collins provides a perfect example of the unintentional use of malapropism, with delightful phrasings such as 'as a clergyman, it is his duty to marry, and he must be kept by any means from shrubbery.'