Definition of spoonerism in English:



  • A verbal error in which a speaker accidentally transposes the initial sounds or letters of two or more words, often to humorous effect, as in the sentence you have hissed the mystery lectures.

    • ‘Malapropisms and spoonerisms add colour to language.’
    • ‘They speak in spoonerisms and malapropisms and put forward bizarre concepts and beliefs.’
    • ‘Adam tries to object to this and other outrages, but he's so flustered that all that comes out are exasperated spoonerisms.’
    • ‘He was for many years a cricket commentator on Indian radio, famed for his spoonerisms.’
    • ‘The best-known of these are the sound transpositions called spoonerisms.’


Early 20th century: named after the Revd W. A. Spooner (1844–1930), an English scholar who reputedly made such errors in speaking.