acyrologia  acyrologia
 ak-ir-o-lo'-gi-a from Gk. a, "not", kyros, "authority,"
and logos, "speech"
Also sp. acirilogia
acyron, improprietas

An incorrect use of words, especially the use of words that sound alike but are far in meaning from the speaker's intentions.
Note: Malapropisms are a kind of acyrologia.
"I'm going to get tutored!" (One dog brags to another in a Gary Larson Far Side cartoon)
The comedy of this cartoon results from acyrologia: the dog has mistaken "neutered" for the less painful "tutored," a mistake that changes the meaning entirely of what was intended.

"Oh, so your Health/PE class is bisexual."
"Co-ed" was meant for "bisexual." The misuse of this word changes the meaning significantly.

Related Figures

  • cacozelia
    A kind of acyrologia in which one uses newfangled speech or Latinate diction in order to appear learned.
  • paronomasia (punning)
    Paronomasia shares with acyrologia the incorrect use of words, especially of words distant in meaning but similar in sound; however, while acyrologia is unintended (and so a vice), paronomasia is wordplay that is purposeful.
  • Vices
    Acyrologia is one of many figures of speech considered to be vices.
  • Figures of Substitution
Related Topics of Invention

  • Notation and Conjugates
    This topic of invention plays off of the relationship between language and what language represents, and therefore encompasses both acyrologia and paronomasia.
See Also
  • Ethos
    Acyrologia erodes the ethos of the speaker, for it portrays his/her ignorance. However, if it is seen as a tool used by an implied author to cleverly characterize a fictional person, it can contribute to the speaker's/author's reputation for wit, or can endear the audience through comedy.
  • Levels of Style (low)
    Using acyrologia reflects poor diction (word choice), thus demonstrating a low level of style.
  • Substitution
    Acyrologia is one of many other figures of speech or rhetorical strategies based upon substitution.
  Sources: Quintilian 8.2.3 ("improprietas"); Isidore 2.20.1; Susenbrotus (1540) 11-12 ("acyrologia," "acyron"); Sherry (1550) 32 ("acyrologia," "improprietas"); Peacham (1577) D1r

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
Please cite "Silva Rhetoricae" (

Trees | SILVA RHETORICAE | Flowers