folk etymology

folk etymology
is ‘a popular modifying of the form of a word or phrase in order to make it seem to be derived from a more familiar word’. Examples are cockroach (from Spanish cucaracha), sparrow-grass (a dialect and colloquial name for asparagus), and hiccough (a later spelling of hiccup under the mistaken impression that the second syllable was related to cough). The term is also applied more generally to any popular but mistaken account of the origin of a word or phrase, such as Amazon (explained by the Greeks as derived from amazos ‘breastless’, as if from a- ‘without’ + mazos ‘breast’, referring to a fable that the Amazons cut off the right breast so as to draw a bow more easily) and posh (that it is formed from the initials of port out starboard home, referring to the more comfortable accommodation on ships formerly sailing between England and India).

Modern English usage. 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • folk etymology — n. unscientific etymology; popular but incorrect notion of the origin and derivation of a word: folk etymology may bring about change, as in the case of “cole slaw” becoming “cold slaw” …   English World dictionary

  • Folk etymology — This article is about a technical term in linguistics. For incorrect popular etymologies, see false etymology. Folk etymology is change in a word or phrase over time resulting from the replacement of an unfamiliar form by a more familiar… …   Wikipedia

  • folk etymology — noun a popular but erroneous etymology • Hypernyms: ↑etymology * * * ˈfolk etymology 7 [folk etymology] (also ˌpopular etyˈmology) noun …   Useful english dictionary

  • folk etymology — folk′ etymol ogy n. 1) ling. a modification of a linguistic form according either to a falsely assumed etymology, as Welsh rarebit from Welsh rabbit, or to a historically irrelevant analogy, as bridegroom from bridegome[/ex] 2) ling. a popular… …   From formal English to slang

  • folk etymology — noun a) A modification of a word resulting from a misunderstanding of its etymology, as with island, belfry, and hangnail. b) Such a misunderstanding; a false etymology that incorrectly explains the origin of a word. See Also: folk etymologize …   Wiktionary

  • folk etymology — 1. a modification of a linguistic form according either to a falsely assumed etymology, as Welsh rarebit from Welsh rabbit, or to a historically irrelevant analogy, as bridegroom from bridegome. 2. a popular but false notion of the origin of a… …   Universalium

  • folk etymology — /foʊk ɛtəˈmɒlədʒi/ (say fohk etuh moluhjee) noun 1. a modification of a linguistic form according to a falsely assumed etymology, as in Welsh rarebit from Welsh rabbit. 2. a popularly held but nevertheless untrue belief as to the origin of a word …   Australian English dictionary

  • folk etymology — noun Date: 1882 the transformation of words so as to give them an apparent relationship to other better known or better understood words (as in the change of Spanish cucaracha to English cockroach) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • folk etymology — noun 1》 a popular but mistaken account of the origin of a word or phrase. 2》 the process by which the form of an unfamiliar or foreign word is adapted to a more familiar form through popular usage …   English new terms dictionary

  • folk — (n.) O.E. folc common people, laity; men; people, nation, tribe; multitude; troop, army, from P.Gmc. *folkom (Cf. O.Fris. folk, M.Du. volc, Ger. Volk people ), from P.Gmc. *fulka , perhaps originally host of warriors; Cf. O.N. folk people, also… …   Etymology dictionary

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