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A misnomer is a name that is incorrectly or unsuitably applied.[1] Misnomers often arise because something was named long before its correct nature was known, or because an earlier form of something has been replaced by a later form to which the name no longer suitably applies, or in an attempt to falsely blame or embarrass like in the misnomer case of Spanish flu. A misnomer may also be simply a word that someone uses incorrectly or misleadingly.[2] The word "misnomer" does not mean "misunderstanding" or "popular misconception",[2] and a number of misnomers remain in common usage — which is to say that a word being a misnomer does not necessarily make usage of the word incorrect.

Sources of misnomers

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Some of the sources of misnomers are:


Older name retained

The term anachronym as defined in Garner's Modern English Usage[3] refers to this type of misnomer. Examples cited by Garner include the persistence of the word dial in its telephoning sense after the rotary dial era and the persistence of the term tin foil in the aluminum foil era.[3] Anachronyms should not be confused with anacronyms, which are words such as laser and sonar that have acronymic origin but are generally no longer treated like conventional acronyms (that is, they are used syntactically like any other words, without reference to their original expansions).

Similarity of appearance

Difference between common and technical meanings

Association with place other than that which one may assume


See also


  1. ^ Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged (12th ed.). HarperCollins. 2014.
  2. ^ a b Garner, Bryan (2009). Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 542. ISBN 978-0-19-538275-4.
  3. ^ a b Garner, Bryan A. (2016), Garner's Modern English Usage (4th ed.), headword "anachronyms", ISBN 978-0190491482.((citation)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ a b c d "34 Misleading Misnomers Explained". Mental Floss. 2015-12-15. Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  5. ^ "Arthropod Museum, Dept. of Entomology, University of Arkansas". 2012-05-26. Archived from the original on 2012-05-26. Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  6. ^ Leitner, Gerhard; Sieloff, Inke (1998). "Aboriginal words and concepts in Australian English". World Englishes. 17 (2): 153–169. doi:10.1111/1467-971X.00089.
  7. ^ "10 'Nuts' That Aren't Actually Nuts". Mental Floss. 2020-02-24. Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  8. ^ " | Meanings & Definitions of English Words". Retrieved 2024-02-06.
  9. ^ "Elbow Pain Treatment Guide". Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved 2024-02-06.