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. 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] An eggcorn can be described as an intra-lingual phono-semantic matching, a matching in which the intended word and substitute are from the same language. Together with other types of same-sounding phrases, eggcorns are sometimes also referred to "oronyms".


The term eggcorn, as used to refer to this kind of substitution, 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 he argued that the precise phenomenon lacked a name. Pullum suggested using eggcorn itself as a label.

Similar phenomenaEdit

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 substitutions that exhibit creativity, logic[3] or ignorance.[4] Eggcorns often involve replacing an unfamiliar, archaic, or obscure word with a more common or modern word ("baited breath" for "bated breath").[5]

The phenomenon is 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 often unaware.[6]

It is also similar to, but differs from, a mondegreen or a folk etymology.[7]


See alsoEdit


  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". The New York Times. p. 4. Archived from the original on 2006-08-13. Retrieved 2006-12-21.
  3. ^ a b Peters, Mark (March–April 2006). "Word Watch: The Eggcorn – Lend Me Your Ear". Psychology Today. 39 (2): 18. Archived from the original on 2006-07-09. Retrieved 2006-07-13.
  4. ^ Katy Steinmetz (30 May 2015). "This Is What 'Eggcorns' Are (and Why They're Jar-Droppingly Good)". Time. Archived from the original on 12 June 2019. Retrieved 20 September 2019.
  5. ^ Staff (2006-08-26). "The word: Eggcorns". New Scientist. p. 52. Archived from the original on 2007-03-22. Retrieved 2006-12-21. LexisNexis link
  6. ^ Zwicky, Arnold (2 Nov 2003). "LADY MONDEGREEN SAYS HER PEACE ABOUT EGG CORNS". Archived from the original on 8 March 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2018.
  7. ^ Pullum, Geoffrey K (October 27, 2003). "Phrases for lazy writers in kit form". Language Log. Archived from the original on October 17, 2007. Retrieved November 25, 2007.
  8. ^ Anu Garg (February 21, 2013). "eggcorn". A Word A Day. Archived from the original on May 16, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  9. ^ "'For All Intensive Purposes': An Eggcorn". Merriam-Webster. Archived from the original on June 18, 2020. Retrieved June 18, 2020.
  10. ^ Butterfield, Jeremy (2009). Damp Squid: The English Language Laid Bare. Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 978-0-19-957409-4. Archived from the original on 2020-10-18. Retrieved 2020-06-18.

Further readingEdit

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