Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Misnomer

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is misnomer. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Misnomer means “an incorrect name or designation.” It can also be used to refer to the act of wrongly naming or designating, as in “calling complicated and varied climatic changes ‘global warming’ is something of a misnomer.”

// Peanut is one of the most famous misnomers, because peanuts are legumes, not true nuts.

MISNOMER in Context

“The librarian of the Oregon Grotto, which is a bit of a misnomer because it’s focused on southern Washington, is the official keeper of approximately 600 tightly protected cave maps that reveal the secret locations of every documented cave in the region.” — Kate Robertson, The Guardian (London), 29 Mar. 2022

Did You Know?

What’s in a name? Well, in some cases, a name will contain an error, a misunderstanding, or a mislabeling. Historians have long noted that the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire. The Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed’s Hill. And the Pennsylvania Dutch are in fact of German ancestry. For such cases, we have the term misnomer, which can refer both to the use of an incorrect or inappropriate designation (as in “it’s a misnomer to call an orca a ‘killer whale’”) or to the designation itself. Regardless, there’s no mistaking the source of misnomer: it comes from the Anglo-French verb mesnomer (“to misname”) and ultimately has its roots in nomen, the Latin word for “name.”

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