• A word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one that sounds very similar or identical (e.g., “tow the line” instead of “toe the line”).

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Example Sentences

“I couldn’t stop laughing at the silly mistake I made with the eggcorn.”

“‘Intensive purposes’ is an eggcorn, but people will still understand what you mean.”

“Sometimes you can only tell an eggcorn in writing, because the versions are pronounced the same.”

Word Origin

English, early 21st century

Why this word?

Did you say “acorn”? No — “EGGCORN.” That’s what a group of linguists came up with to name the phenomenon of mishearing and repeating a word or phrase so often that the “wrong” version becomes commonly used. “Intensive purposes” is the eggcorn of “intents and purposes,” for example. Eggcorns don’t usually appear in a dictionary, so they’re more similar to slang. To tell the difference between an eggcorn and the appropriate word or phrase, the key is in the meanings of the words. “Front in center” doesn’t really mean anything, but the phrase “front and center” describes a specific placement.  

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