Folk-etymology meaning

Change in the form of a word or phrase resulting from a mistaken assumption about its composition or meaning, as in shamefaced for earlier shamfast, “bound by shame,” or cutlet from French côtelette, “little rib.”
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Unscientific etymology; popular but incorrect notion of the origin and derivation of a word: folk etymology may bring about change, as in the case of “cole slaw” becoming “cold slaw”
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A misunderstanding of the etymology of a word; a false etymology that incorrectly explains the origin of a word.

Many folk etymologies involve backronyms.

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A modification of a word or its spelling resulting from such a misunderstanding, as with island, belfry, and hangnail.
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Origin of folk-etymology

  • English from the 1880s (Abram Smythe Palmer, 1882), a calque of German Volksetymologie (1820s, in 1821 as Volks-Etymologie in J. A. Schmeller, Die mundarten Bayerns).

    From Wiktionary