Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Ludicrous misuse of a word, especially by confusion with one of similar sound.
  • n. An example of such misuse.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The blundering use of an absurdly inappropriate word or expression in place of a similar sounding one.
  • n. An instance of this; malaprop.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A grotesque misuse of a word; a word so used.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The act or habit of misapplying words through an ambition to use fine language.
  • n. A word so misapplied.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. the unintentional misuse of a word by confusion with one that sounds similar

Etymologies

From malaprop.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From the name of Mrs. Malaprop, a character in the play The Rivals (1775) by Richard Brinsley Sheridan + -ism. As dramatic characters in English comic plays of this time often had allusive names, it is likely that Sheridan fashioned the name from malapropos ("inappropriate"). Mrs. Malaprop is perhaps the best-known example of a familiar comedic character archetype who unintentionally substitutes inappropriate but like-sounding words that take on a ludicrous meaning when used incorrectly. (Wiktionary)

Examples

Comments

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  • Bottom, from A Midsummer Night's Dream is famous for numerous amusing malapropisms.

    July 26, 2009

  • "Malapropisms are words that, because they are used incorrectly, produce a humorous effect. The term derives from the character Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's play 'The Rivals' (1775). Mrs. Malaprop loves big words, but she uses them ignorantly to create hilarious solecisms and occasionally embarrassing double entendres. One of Mrs. Malaprop's famous similes is 'as headstrong as an allegory on the banks of the Nile.' -- Bryan A. Garner, Garner's Modern American Usage

    January 29, 2009

  • "We need a few laughs to break up the monogamy."

    October 6, 2007

  • From dictionary.com:

    Mrs. Malaprop, a character in an eighteenth-century British comedy, The Rivals, by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, constantly confuses words. Malapropisms are named after her.

    December 12, 2006