Is there a word that describes a spoken error wherein the speaker accidentally replaces a phoneme with an incorrect one?

For example, an English teaches I had in high school once uttered the response "Yef" instead of "Yes", purely by accident. We all understood what he meant, as in the case of a typo, he just misspoke.

  • 3
    It's called misspeaking, as you suggest, or a speech error. Everybody does it all the time. There are names for specific types that happen a lot, like metathesis, which swaps consonants (think "methatesis"), or haplology, which means reducing doubled syllables to one (think haplogy). Oct 26, 2015 at 23:30
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    Note that there are a number of specific terms, such as "Spoonerism", for specific errors in speech.
    – Hot Licks
    Oct 26, 2015 at 23:31
  • 9
    Also called a slip of the tongue, which is a translation of the classical Latin phrase lapsus linguae.
    – Colin Fine
    Oct 26, 2015 at 23:43

3 Answers 3


Wikipedia calls this a speech error or slip of the tongue (noted in the comments).

A speech error, commonly referred to as a slip of the tongue1 (Latin: lapsus linguae, or occasionally self-demonstratingly, lipsus languae), is a deviation (conscious or unconscious) from the apparently intended form of an utterance.


There are many ways to answer this question, depending on the kind of error in speech. Your example is only one kind. I would say this is a "slip of the tongue."

This subject comes up most often when addressing what politicians say in a speech or answers to questions from constituents. Typically, a politician will say they "misspoke" or made a "gaffe." Although these expressions are not typically used for single letter mistakes.

Some speech errors are called "a Freudian slip." https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freudian_slip. The idea behind this expression is that someone says something and the wrong word is uttered, but the wrong word actually reveals their "true" feeling, perhaps from their subconscious. Whether there is any proof of this, I can't say. Notice that the discussion of Freudian slip uses the expression "slip of the tongue" as part of its explanation.


In addition to a lapse (which would fit here too) you can also use a Latin phrase lapsus or lapsus linguae. Per dictionary.com:

- a slip or lapse

lapsus linguae
- a slip of the tongue

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