In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical in the speaker's dialect (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as "old-timers' disease" for "Alzheimer's disease".[1]


The term eggcorn was coined by professor of linguistics Geoffrey Pullum in September 2003 in response to an article by Mark Liberman on the website Language Log, a blog for linguists.[2] Liberman discussed the case of a woman who substitutes the phrase egg corn for the word acorn, and argued that the precise phenomenon lacked a name. Pullum suggested using "eggcorn" itself as a label for the class of error.

Similar phenomena

An eggcorn differs from a malapropism, the latter being a substitution that creates a nonsensical phrase. Classical malapropisms generally derive their comic effect from the fault of the user, while eggcorns are errors that exhibit creativity or logic.[3] Eggcorns often involve replacing an unfamiliar, archaic, or obscure word with a more common or modern word ("baited breath" for "bated breath").[4]

The phenomenon is very similar to the form of wordplay known as the pun except that, by definition, the speaker or writer intends the pun to have some humorous effect on the recipient, whereas one who speaks or writes an eggcorn is unaware of the mistake.

It is also similar, but differs from mondegreens or a folk etymology. [5]


See also


  1. "eggcorn n.". American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (fifth ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2011. ISBN 0-547-04101-2.
  2. Erard, Michael (June 20, 2006). "Analyzing Eggcorns and Snowclones, and Challenging Strunk and White". New York Times. p. 4. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
  3. 1 2 Peters, Mark (Mar–April 2006). "Word Watch: The Eggcorn – Lend Me Your Ear". Psychology Today. 39 (2): 18. Retrieved 2006-07-13. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  4. Staff (2006-08-26). "The word: Eggcorns". New Scientist. p. 52. Retrieved 2006-12-21. LexisNexis link
  5. Pullum, Geoffrey K (October 27, 2003). "Phrases for lazy writers in kit form". Language Log. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  6. "expatriate » expatriot". The Eggcorn Database. Retrieved 2010-07-20.
  7. Saner, Emine (2006-10-05). "Tiny eggcorns, mighty gaffes". London: The Guardian. p. 2. Retrieved 2009-06-15.
  8. "pray » prey". The Eggcorn Database. Retrieved 2010-06-10.
  9. "intents and purposes » intensive purposes". The Eggcorn Database. Retrieved 2016-06-29.

Further reading

External links

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