I'm sure there's a word which matches this definition. Where you make a slight mistake in saying something and a friend will nudge you and say "oh, so that's what you really think?!"

One example, though not perfect, was when Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a heated exchange, meant to declare "We saved the banks" but actually said "We saved the world..." before correcting himself.

  • Can you provide an example, please?
    – BiscuitBoy
    Feb 25, 2016 at 8:29
  • I'm trying to think of one but my mind has helpfully gone blank.
    – Mr. Boy
    Feb 25, 2016 at 8:32
  • 1
    Vaguely related: you may also be thinking of a spoonerism
    – Benubird
    Feb 25, 2016 at 10:53
  • Sorry all. I didn't know if it was a single word or not and being new, was unsure what tags to use. Both phrases and single-word answers are welcome, what ever is accurate. Apologies if you feel messed about, that wasn't my intention.
    – Mr. Boy
    Feb 25, 2016 at 14:58
  • 3
    Great example (in a joke): Man says to his psychiatrist "Last week you were telling me about Freudian slips, and I had the most amazing one this week. We were at my in-laws for dinner. I wanted to say to my mother-in-law 'Please pass the salt' but it came out as 'you ruined my life' "
    – Ask613
    Feb 25, 2016 at 17:29

4 Answers 4


That's an example of Freudian slip (wikipedia):

error in speech, memory, or physical action that is interpreted as occurring due to the interference of an unconscious ("dynamically repressed") subdued wish, conflict, or train of thought guided by the ego and the rules of correct behavior.

It is also known, technically, I suppose, as parapraxis (dictionary.com):

a slip of the tongue or pen, forgetfulness, misplacement of objects, or other error thought to reveal unconscious wishes or attitudes.

  • 3
    +1 You are right in as much as that is what it is usually called. However modern cognitive psychologists place little reliance on Freud's theory about the existence of an ordered sub-conscious - mainly because it relies too much on theory, and there is little empirical evidence for such a thing.
    – WS2
    Feb 25, 2016 at 8:43
  • 58
    A Freudian slip is when you say one thing and mean your mother -- I mean "another"
    – Lenne
    Feb 25, 2016 at 9:43
  • 12
    My experience has been that the term "Freudian slip" typically refers specifically to gaffs of a sexual nature. This may not be the official definition, but it seems to be widely used in that way. Feb 25, 2016 at 17:15
  • 15
    @DarrelHoffman I don't know if you intended it (If so, +1!) but what's hilarious is that your statement is both self-referential, and a Freudian slip. A gaffe is a mistake, while a gaff is something else entirely. Feb 25, 2016 at 19:10
  • 3
    @IwillnotexistIdonotexist - Hmm, I'd like to pretend that was on purpose, but having never heard of the other definition until now, I can honestly say that was entirely unintentional. But admittedly hilarious. (Can you still call it a Freudian slip if the person who makes it is unaware even subconsciously of alternate meaning?) Feb 25, 2016 at 19:18

Another word for it is Lapsus.

According to Wikipedia:

A lapsus (Latin for "lapse, slip, error") is an involuntary mistake made while writing or speaking, something long studied in philology.

The word is used in quite a few languages.

  • 3
    Welcome to English Language & Usage! Fun answer, I'd never heard of this before. Feb 25, 2016 at 11:21
  • It's often used in French too!
    – Shautieh
    Feb 25, 2016 at 12:53
  • 14
    Not used in eveyday English. Feb 25, 2016 at 14:36
  • 7
    The term lapsus is neutral: unlike Jacinto's suggestions, and unlike what the OP is asking for, it does not specifically imply that the error suggests a desire or belief that the speaker had intended to conceal.
    – ruakh
    Feb 25, 2016 at 20:43
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    What's wrong with just plain 'lapse'? If you use 'lapsus'' in English, unless you're writing catachismic exegesis, you'll be way out of register.
    – Mitch
    Feb 26, 2016 at 13:04

A Kinsley Gaffe where a person, especially a politician, accidentally says what they really think.


Many a truth is said in jest.

Per Wikipedia, this adage is from the Cook’s Tale by Chaucer.

This is not necessarily a slip, though it often is. In some cases, the joke was planned, not a slip, but by making the joke the speaker unintentionally gives away that he or she isn’t really joking.

But it doesn’t generally apply when a joke is obviously speaking the truth. Observational humor, satire, etc., wouldn’t usually be described with this, even though the literal meaning would apply especially well in those cases.

  • I did not know that was Chaucerian! good one
    – Fattie
    Feb 26, 2016 at 13:25

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