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Accidental words

Accidental words
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The English language is chock-full of words that were born out of errors. Read on to find out which everyday terms started out by mistake.

Apron

Apron
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Back in the Middle Ages, the French called this protective cooking gear a naperon. But once English speakers adopted the word, the phrase “a napron” often blended together when people said it out loud. As a result, “a napron” became “an apron,” instead – and we have spelled it that way ever since.

Here are 18 words for things you didn’t even know had names.

Algorithm

Algorithm
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The original Medieval Latin version of this word, algorismus, was named after a famous Arab mathematician. But the term is actually just a bad translation of his last name, al-Khwarizmi.

Here are 10 more accidental discoveries that changed the world.

Sneeze

Sneeze
Tatiana Ayazo/RD.com

Believe it or not, sneeze was originally spelled with an F, not an S – as in fneze. Why the change? According to one explanation, people often misread the lowercase f as the old-fashioned long S character, ſ. Eventually, the spelling error simply became the norm.

Here are 70 words (and phrases) you’re probably saying wrong. 

Squeeze

Squeeze
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In Old English, the term quease meant to press or crush firmly. The extra “s” was mistakenly added later on, probably due to the word’s likeness to other expressions that begin with “squ-,” like squash and squat.

These 10 words will immediately make you sound old. 

Pea

Pea
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One pea was originally called a pease in Middle English. However, it was often misinterpreted as a plural word, thanks to the last “s” sound. This led scholars to create a singular version of the word, pea, in the 17th century. According to Mental Floss, the actual plural of pease in Middle English was pesen.

Fancy yourself as a bit of a wordsmith? Test your vocabulary with our obscure words quiz.

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Nickname

Nickname
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A secondary or unofficial name in the late Middle Ages was an ekename – which literally meant “also-name.” Frequent references to “an ekename” eventually turned into “a nickname.”

Check out these hilarious (but totally real) names for groups of animals. 

Sashay

Sashay
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Although the English borrowed the French word chasse – a verb that means “to chase” – to describe a “gliding step,” they butchered the pronunciation by swapping the “sh” and “s” sounds.

These are 15 of the hardest words in the English language to spell. 

Ammunition

Ammunition
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Like “nickname” and “apron,” ammunition was born from an incorrect division. French soldiers in the Middle Ages misheard the French word “la munition” as l’amonition, and the English language later adopted this misspelling in the 17th century.

These 10 common sayings sound way funnier in other languages. 

Varsity

Varsity
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This word originally started out as versity, a shortened version of university. No one knows exactly what happened, but somewhere down the line, the letter ‘e’ was swapped with ‘a.’

Here are 16 social media slang terms you should really know by now. 

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