real words

Have you ever read a restaurant menu and been shocked by just how many ingredients are completely foreign to you? The menu is written in English, and you eat out regularly. So how it is possible that you’ve never heard of so many of these ingredients before? They don’t even look like real words!

If you read regularly, you’ve probably had the same experience with words you’ve come across in a newspaper article or novel. What on Earth do suborn, abri, and malaphor mean? And are they even real words or are they typos or intentional tricks meant to throw us off? We’re about to set the record straight.


Let’s go in order and start with suborn. Suborn looks like a badly mangled version of stubborn. But it isn’t. Suborn is a real word. And it isn’t just a legitimate word that’s recognized by major dictionaries, including the Merriam-Webster dictionary and the Oxford Dictionaries. It’s currently a trending word thanks to testimony from former CIA chief John O. Brennan about the investigation into Trump’s links to Russia.

So what exactly does suborn mean? It means to secretly make someone do something illegal. So if you blackmail your sister into stealing your aunt’s jewellery, you’re suborning her. Here’s how you use it in a sentence:

  • “The group tried to suborn the new employee into joining their insurance fraud scheme.”
  • “Aaron suborned Marie into changing the court documents.”
  • “He was suborned to cover up the surgical team’s mistakes.”

So it may seem hard to believe, but suborn really is a real word.


So now we know that suborn is a real word. But what about abri? Abri looks more like a trendy baby name than a word. But it too is a real word (we promise!).

What exactly does it mean? An abri is a shelter, especially a carved out refuge in a hillside. Here’s how you use it in a sentence:

  • “When they got stuck on the mountain, they rested in the abri.”
  • “The abri was too far from where they were. They would have to go back down the hill and try again tomorrow.”
  • “They stored extra supplies in the abri.”

In sum, abri isn’t just urban dictionary slang. It’s been in use as a real word since the 1700s.


So far, we know that suborn and abri are real words. Now it’s all down to malaphor.

If you think malaphor look like a combination of malapropism and metaphor, you’re right! A malaphor is the term that comes out when people mix up common phrases. Here are some of the Oxford Dictionaries’ favourite malaphors:

  • “Don’t judge a book before it’s hatched!”
  • “It’s not rocket surgery!”
  • “Until the pigs freeze over!”

Although people are already using the word malaphor in lots of places online, major dictionaries don’t recognize it as a real word just yet. But they are actively tracking how people use this term so that they’ll know if and when malaphor meets their entry requirements.

They’re (almost) all real words!

You may have never heard of the words suborn, abri, and malaphor before, but they aren’t the gibberish they may seem to be. Suborn and abri are recognized by major dictionaries as real words. And although malaphor isn’t there yet, there’s a good chance it will be sometime soon.

Is overexaggerate a real word? The answer isn’t as black and white as you may think. We explain it all in this post.

“Suborn,” “abri,” and “malaphor”: Which ones are real words?

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