The Oxford Biblical Studies Online and Oxford Islamic Studies Online have retired. Content you previously purchased on Oxford Biblical Studies Online or Oxford Islamic Studies Online has now moved to Oxford Reference, Oxford Handbooks Online, Oxford Scholarship Online, or What Everyone Needs to Know®. For information on how to continue to view articles visit the subscriber services page.

Related Content

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Science and technology
  • Psychology


Show Summary Details


folk etymology

Quick Reference

1 An alteration in the form of a word through the influence of a more familiar word or words that people associate with it, as in sparrow-grass for asparagus.

2 A popular misconception about the origin of a word. Thus belfry, the part of a tower in which bells are hung, comes from Medieval Latin berfredus a tower, not from the English word bell; crap, excrement or faeces, comes from Middle Dutch krappe chaff and is not named after Thomas Crapper (1836–1910), the Victorian English sanitary engineer who contributed to the development of the siphonic flush toilet and whose aptronym is inscribed on a manhole cover, popular with brass-rubbers, in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey; penthouse, a top-floor flat, comes via Middle English pentis from Latin appendicium an appendage, not from English pent or house; and pickaxe, a large double-pointed garden tool, comes from Old French picois a mattock, not from English pick or axe. See also back formation, metanalysis.

Reference entries