Dictionary.com
definitions
  • synonyms

misnomer

[mis-noh-mer]
noun
  1. a misapplied or inappropriate name or designation.
  2. an error in naming a person or thing.
Show More

Origin of misnomer

1425–75; late Middle English < Anglo-French, noun use of Middle French mesnomer ‘to misname’, equivalent to mes- mis-1 + nomer < Latin nōmināre; see nominate
Can be confusedmisnomer mistake (see confusables note at the current entry)

Confusables note

Misnomer is not a fancy, more elevated word for mistake. Nor is it a synonym for misstatement, misconception, or misunderstanding. As the word's Latin etymon nōmināre (‘to name’) tells us, a misnomer is a special kind of mistake: a wrong name. The consequences of a mistake can range from trivial to catastrophic—from typos to train wrecks. But a misnomer is often just embarrassing, like trying to impress a friend by referrring to a Burgundy wine as a “Bordeaux.” Sometimes, however, what began as a misnomer has become a standard term: the game of Chinese checkers does not come from China; the funny bone is a nerve, not a bone; hay fever is not caused by hay and is not a fever; and a pregnant woman's morning sickness can occur at any time of day. Other kinds of mistakes or misunderstandings—giving a driver wrong directions, thinking that the earth is flat, drawing an erroneous conclusion—are not misnomers. In fact, the word misnomer when used to describe a behavioral mistake or a misperception of reality is itself a misnomer!
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for misnomer

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples


British Dictionary definitions for misnomer

misnomer

noun
  1. an incorrect or unsuitable name or term for a person or thing
  2. the act of referring to a person by the wrong name
Show More

Word Origin

C15: via Anglo-Norman from Old French mesnommer to misname, from Latin nōmināre to call by name
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for misnomer

n.

mid-15c., "mistaken identification of an accused or convicted person," from Anglo-French, Old French mesnomer "to misname, wrongly name," noun use of infinitive, from mes- "wrongly" (see mis- (2)) + nomer "to name," from Latin nominare "nominate" (see nominate). For noun use of French infinitives, cf. waiver.

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper