Is there a name for the process by which words are created out of mispronunciations of other words, or for the words themselves?

Examples that come to mind include ain't for isn't and prolly for probably.

I suppose these words would be called slang words, but they're a particular kind of slang that comes from the original words being more difficult (or just taking longer) to say.

Also, is this the same phenomenon that gives us more casual, abbreviated versions of longer words, like comfy for comfortable or even ˈkazh for casual?

  • 1
    FWIW, ain't derived from amn't and aren't, not from isn't
    – nohat
    Mar 13, 2012 at 15:53
  • @nohat Thanks, I didn't know that. am not, are not, is not... all forms of to be, or, not to be. ;-)
    – Caleb
    Mar 13, 2012 at 16:01
  • I've never seen (heard?) kazh for casual, but other common ones are soz for sorry, and pacific for specific. I don't think they're really "mispronunciations", so much as spoken/txt casual/slang shortenings, as @cornbread ninja says. Mar 13, 2012 at 16:31
  • @FumbleFingers That's the only way that I can think of to spell the way it sounds -- essentially the first syllable of casual. I have to admit that I haven't seen it either -- but this process of spoken words being written down and growing into part of the language is what I was thinking about.
    – Caleb
    Mar 13, 2012 at 16:36

4 Answers 4


Two remotely-related problems are

  • mondegreen, "A form of error arising from mishearing a spoken or sung phrase" or "A misunderstanding of a written or spoken phrase as a result of multiple definitions." Wikipedia comments, "If a person stubbornly sticks to a mispronunciation after being corrected, the error is known as a mumpsimus."
  • eggcorn, " An idiosyncratic but semantically motivated substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound identical, or nearly so, at least in the dialect the speaker uses."

Edit: Jon Purdy has already mentioned the Great Vowel Shift and two mechanisms for changes in pronunciation: cluster reduction and vowel reduction. At a slightly higher level, creation of words from others via mispronunciations ought to be an important part of language evolution and figuratively one ought to be able to call the process morphogenesis, which is a word from biology that refers to "differentiation of tissues and subsequent growth of structures in an organism". But no, "language evolution" instead refers to evolutionary linguistics, which apparently concentrates on relations between human evolution and development of language ability, rather than on changes in specific languages.

  • Mondegreens arise from mis-hearings, not mispronunciations. The error is on the listener's side, not the speaker's so ... related, but not it. Eggcorn is pretty good, though. Mar 13, 2012 at 19:44
  • @Boofus, certainly the listener is misperceiving, but often as a consequence of poor enunciation on speaker's part. Also, I refer to mondegreens and eggcorns as "remotely-related" to question. Mar 13, 2012 at 19:51

They're clippings. Stan Carey has a post on the topic here.

  • Of the OP’s examples, only cazh is a clipping, but +1 anyway.
    – Jon Purdy
    Mar 13, 2012 at 21:17
  • From the link, the 'clippings' look like just the first syllable(s) of a much longer word. So I wouldn't think of them as mispronunciations, just abbreviations.
    – Mitch
    Mar 13, 2012 at 21:19

Ain't for isn't is a colloquialism.

prolly for probably


comfy for comfortable

are informal shortenings of each, but I don't believe there is a term for this phenomenon aside from informal shortening or slang.


Your question needs to be unasked a bit. Ain’t isn’t a mispronunciation of isn’t; it was originally a contraction of am not that was then generalised to all the negative forms of to be.

Prolly and its rarer cousin probby are derived from probably by phonological reduction, the process by which words lose phonetic complexity through omission, approximation, and transposition of sounds. By the same process, comfortable is usually pronounced comfterble, which can be abbreviated and diminuted into comfy.

Different kinds of reduction include cluster reduction (knife→nife) and vowel reduction (and→n).

This is one of the major reasons that the pronunciations of English words can stray so far from their written form—walked used to be pronounced as it is written, wall-ked, rather than the woct form we hear nowadays.

Unrelated to your question, the other major reason for the state of English spelling is a drastic change in English vowel pronunciation called the Great Vowel Shift that occurred between about 1350 and 1500. The pronunciation changed, but the spelling didn’t.

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