- A misunderstanding of the etymology of a word based on an inexpert analysis; an etymology that incorrectly explains the origin of a word based on the inadequate judgement of a common speaker of the language instead of etymological expertise.
- Synonyms: fake etymology, false etymology, pseudo-etymology, paraetymology, paretymology
- Many English folk etymologies involve backronyms.
- 1986, Robert Richardson, Henry Thoreau: A Life of the Mind, Berkeley: University of California Press, →ISBN, page 237:
- He even sharked up a false or "folk" etymology in which saunter is made to derive from sainte terre, making the saunterer a crusader.
- 2006, Shaligram Shukla and Jeff Connor-Linton, “Language change”, in Ralph Fasold and Jeff Connor-Linton, editors, An Introduction to Language and Linguistics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, →ISBN, page 296:
- Thus hamburger (whose true etymology is 'city of Hamburg' + er 'someone from') has been reanalyzed as ham + burger 'burger made with ham.' [...] Subsequently, on the analogy of this folk etymology, new forms such as cheeseburger, chiliburger, and plain burger have been created.
- A modification of a word or its spelling resulting from a misunderstanding of its etymology, as with island, belfry, and hangnail.
- 1882, Abram Smythe Palmer, Folk-etymology: A Dictionary of Verbal Corruptions, London: George Bell, OCLC 493786531, page 654:
- SURCEASE owes its form and meaning to a remarkable folk-etymology, as has been pointed out by Prof. Skeat:—"It is obvious, from the usual spelling, that this word is popularly supposed to be allied with cease, with which it has no etymological connexion."
- Synonym: popular etymology
a modification of a word or its spelling
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