I was reading about various terms for incorrect words, but they didn't seem to fit. I saw a post where someone said "what do you like to do when you're board?". That kind of thing. Also, would that be considered a mistake in grammar? I didn't think so, but my friend insists it is.

I'm not sure if there even is a word for that kind of mistake, but was just curious about it. Thanks!

  • If you mean grammar in the sense of syntax then my understanding is that this is not a grammatical error. Back in the days when language teaching was prescriptive, there were "barbarisms", errors of language within single words and "solecisms", errors of syntax, that is the relation between words. This would fall into the first category.
    – Al Maki
    Apr 13, 2018 at 2:50

5 Answers 5


Actually, a malapropism is the substitution of a word that sounds similar, but not identical, to the intended word (such as when Archie on "All in the Family" referred to the "Women's Lubrication Movement", rather than "Liberation").

In Strahan's example, "bored" and "board" are words that sound identical but are spelled differently. These are called homophones.

As far as I know, Strahan's example would simply be called a misspelling. I don't know of any term that specifically means substituting a homonym. In a case like this, it's irrelevant that "board" also happens to be a word, as its meaning is obviously unrelated to the text.

  • 1
    Welcome to the ELU :-). This is an interesting view on OP's question, but for it to be more useful both to the OP and future users of the website, it would be great if you included dictionary definitions and references for the words you suggested. You can always edit your own posts, regardless of your current reputation.
    – Lucky
    May 1, 2015 at 6:52
  • Yes, malapropism is one thing I read about but the words I was referring to sound identical, not just close. Homonym, ahh. Would this be considered a grammar error or something else?
    – Strahan
    May 1, 2015 at 8:31
  • I thought ‘what do you like to do when you’re board?’ would be answered ‘oh, play chess or monopoly!’
    – Jelila
    Jan 17, 2019 at 9:33

Malapropism fits the bill I think.

Form oxford:

The mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with an amusing effect (e.g. ‘dance a flamingo’ instead of flamenco).


Mid 19th century: from the name of the character Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan's play The Rivals (1775) + -ism.

EDIT: I know this doesn't seem to satisfy the OP's example of bored/board. But the OP maybe couldn't think of a better example. It satisfies what they asked for in the title: "What's the term for using the wrong word because it sounds the same"

  • 1
    Don't agree. Malapropism, from Mrs to the modern internet, is about uneducated people trying to impress, by using words of which they do not know the meaning. Or, with easier words, have never been taught to spell i primary school (the "please visit my web sight" phenomenon, also OP's example) I believe OP is asking for "homophone error".
    – David Pugh
    May 1, 2015 at 6:40
  • 1
    @DavidPugh: It's entirely possible that the OP couldn't think of a better example. Read the title of the question, and the the definition of Malapropism. All your talk about uneducated people is just opinion.
    – Tushar Raj
    May 1, 2015 at 7:09
  • Yes, I should have provided more examples. Things like "he went to church to prey to God", "I had three apples, but I eight won sew now I have too."
    – Strahan
    May 1, 2015 at 8:27
  • Aren't malapropisms usually spoken ("utterances") or when written then they would be quoted speech? When someone misspells a homophone then I would agree that's just a misspelling.
    – McCaverty
    Nov 29, 2016 at 18:49

Would mondegreen fit here? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mondegreen "Mishearing of a phrase as a result of near-homophony". Popular example is misheard song lyrics. Maybe not the perfect term, but closer...

  • 1
    Not really, no. Mondegreens are mishearings, not misspellings.
    – AndyT
    Mar 10, 2017 at 11:38

Mondegreen is close to the one I just read: "should the need arrive" (N.O. Advocat). Normal cliche is "should the need arise" but "arrive" seems to work just as well. It just isn't the cliche. What is this called?

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    Welcome to EL&U. This is the area for well presented answers which cite references in support; it is not the place to ask another question.
    – Nigel J
    Nov 19, 2017 at 16:19

It's known as a "homophone mistake" or "homophone error."

"Malapropism" is a word that sounds similar, but not exactly the same. The origin of malapropism comes from the name of a character named Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Sheridan's play The Rivals.

Some scholars consider homophone mistakes to be a subset of malapropisms.

  • 1
    Your answer would be stronger if you included supporting material and/or links to definitions of the terms you've suggested.
    – spoko
    Apr 12, 2018 at 22:15

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