July 03, 2004

Eggcorn of the day: sir name

Reader acw sent in the eggcorn "sir name" for surname. The 3580 hits in Google are things like this:

(link) The goals of this project are to provide others the opportunity to verify their relationship to the Ledford Sir Name Genetically and Identify the Genetic Roots of our Ancestry.

As the AHD explains, surname is from French sur+nom. This has nothing to do with sir, which is a variant of sire, which is from Latin senior by way of Old French and Middle English. But it's a classic "sporadic folk etymology" to make the connection.

Posted by Mark Liberman at July 3, 2004 11:01 AM

I don't really know if this is a case of "folk etymology"
There is evidence of this spelling from a long time ago; the Oxford English Dictionary suggests this spelling was common in the 17th and 18th century. For example,
"They make their Alphabet by the Christen name, I by the Sir name."

Posted by: Chris C. at July 3, 2004 04:51 PM

Back then it was just random spelling; now it's folk etymology -- and exactly parallel to the much commoner "sir loin."

Posted by: language hat at July 3, 2004 05:57 PM