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English from the 1880s (Abram Smythe Palmer, 1882), a calque of German Volksetymologie (1820s, in 1821 as Volks-Etymologie in J. A. Schmeller's Die Mundarten Bayerns grammatisch dargestellt).
folk etymology (countable and uncountable, plural folk etymologies)
- A misunderstanding of the etymology of a word appealing to the unlearned mind; an etymology that incorrectly explains the origin of a word based on a judgement out of knowledge or passions of a common speaker of the language instead of expertise in its past.
- Synonyms: fake etymology, false etymology, pseudo-etymology, paraetymology, paretymology
- Many 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."
a modification of a word or its spelling
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