Definition of folk etymology in English:

folk etymology


  • 1A popular but mistaken account of the origin of a word or phrase.

    • ‘In both cases, the first step has been mostly forgotten, and only shows up as a pinch of folk etymology in the history of the word/expression.’
    • ‘Of the Newfoundland ‘Noah and Goat’ stories, however, my favourite one contains not only folk etymology, but the precise location of Noah's accent.’
    • ‘So there were lots of these sort of folk etymologies.’
    • ‘The latter explanation may, however, simply be a folk etymology or constitute the reason why Albanians identify themselves with the eagle.’
    • ‘Like all juicy urban legends this folk etymology is completely bogus.’
    • ‘Such folk etymologies are common, but worth verifying.’
    • ‘I suspect that the spelling was a folk etymology, an eggcorn, that replaced the unfamiliar element linch with the familiar word lynch.’
    • ‘Every time I poke around in an area like this, I'm amazed by the range of nascent constructional folk etymologies that are out there.’
    1. 1.1mass noun The process by which the form of an unfamiliar or foreign word is adapted to a more familiar form through popular usage.
      • ‘We've been using eggcorn as a term for the kind of sporadic folk etymology represented by interpreting acorn as ‘egg corn’.’
      • ‘On this hypothesis, his use of ‘marquis’ is an eggcorn, which is what we've taken to calling a sporadic folk etymology.’
      • ‘Here we see the workings of the process of linguistic change known as folk etymology.’
      • ‘As the meaning of kit was in turn forgotten, the whole compound became opaque, inviting the intervention of folk etymology.’
      • ‘Like folk etymology, sometimes news reports spread in absence of, or even in direct opposition to, the facts, because they better fit what we want to believe.’
      • ‘The second element of lapwing, namely wing, is due to folk etymology.’
      • ‘Indeed, it might be seen rather as a corruption than as a true folk etymology, if the hallmark of the latter is the somehow meaningful reshaping of a word.’
      • ‘This might be taken to be a folk etymology, like ‘Jerusalem’ for ‘girasole’ in ‘Jerusalem artichoke’ (a kind of sunflower).’
      • ‘Smith doubted that Perchta descended from a pagan goddess, but thought that she was the personification of Epiphany (Perchta's Day), derived through folk etymology.’
      • ‘The ‘lager head’ variant was new to me, but I suspect it is more of a sporadic folk etymology than a regional variant.’


folk etymology