Words That Began as Errors

Like other languages, English is alive and constantly changing. According to, some words, however, began as simple errors that were then adopted into the English vernacular we now know and use. Here are some examples:

Squeeze, or to press firmly, started off as Quease in its original Old English form, but the “s” was added to sound more like other words with the same meaning, such as squirm, squash, or squelch.

Graffiti, or writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place, is used as a singular noun, but it is really the plural form of the word. The actual singular form is graffito.

Tornado, a violent destructive whirling wind accompanied by a funnel-shaped cloud, originates from the Spanish word tronada which means thunderstorm. The new word was formed as the "r" and the "o" were inverted through a process called metathesis, the transposition of sounds or letters in a word.

Algorithm, a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations, originates from the Medieval Latin source for this word, algorismus, which is itself a bad transliteration of al-Khwarizmi, the name of the Arab mathematician who helped introduce higher math to the western world.

Archipelago, meaning a group of islands in a sea, at first suggests that it is derived from the Greek arkhi meaning "chief" and pelagos meaning"sea," However, this form is never actually found occurring in ancient Greek. Rather, the modern form is actually borrowed from Aigaion, the corrupted version of the Italian name for "the Aegean Sea."

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