Folk Etymology

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Folk Etymology

 

the reinterpretation and transformation of obscure words (for the most part, of foreign origin) through their association with similar-sounding words or meaningful parts of words in one’s native language. Folk etymology is based on purely fortuitous, external sound correspondences. For example, in Russian, the substandard word poluklinika (literally, “semiclinic”) is used instead of its standard literary counterpart, poliklinika (“polyclinic”), owing to the association of the unfamiliar poli- with the familiar Russian form polu- (“half-,” “semi-,” “hemi-”). The English word “crayfish,” derived from Middle French crevice, is another example of folk etymology.

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