Is there a word to describe this situation?

ex. A coworker just said the word meander, but pronounced it similar to wander because he was thinking of both word and decided to go with one over the other.

5 Answers 5


This is a type of phonemic speech error known as blending.

An example from the Cognitive Science department of USCD is:

blend of slick and slippery becomes slickery

Speech Errors as Linguistic Evidence defines blending as:

A blend is a word formed from two other words (very rarely more than two) by dividing each of the two original words into two parts, and combining one part from each original word into the new word called the blend.

The book goes on to note that indecision about synonyms is a frequent factor, as well as other similarities between words.

In the example provided, meander and wander have an identical phonetic component, and are synonymous.


If the words have similar sounds, then this would be an example of a:


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).



This was the 'original' meaning of portmanteau word, as coined by Lewis Carroll, but I fear it has been forcibly twisted by those with no love for language to mean just `combination words'.


I suppose you can say they "mixed" or "jumbled" the words up, but there is no specific single word for such a situation. At least, if there is, I'm definitely not aware of it.


I'd try :

discombobulate VERB North American humorous Disconcert or confuse (someone)

‘he is looking a little pained and discombobulated’

also defined

discombobulate [dis-kuh m-bob-yuh-leyt]

verb (used with object), discombobulated, discombobulating. 1. to confuse or disconcert; upset; frustrate:

The speaker was completely discombobulated by the hecklers.

It's the right combination of slightly flustered without losing composure... just a normal human trip-up

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