misnomer

noun

mis·​no·​mer ˌmis-ˈnō-mər How to pronounce misnomer (audio)
1
: the misnaming of a person in a legal instrument
2
a
: a use of a wrong or inappropriate name
Nowadays it is a misnomer to call a farmer a peasant.
b
: a wrong name or inappropriate designation
The name "Greenland" is a misnomer, since much of the island is covered by a massive ice sheet.
misnomered adjective

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Don't Mistake the Meaning of Misnomer

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 not holy, nor 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.”

Examples of misnomer in a Sentence

“International Airport” is something of a misnomer, since almost all the arriving and departing flights are local.
Recent Examples on the Web Rosemarie’s specializes in Wagyu beef sliders, though that’s a bit of a misnomer. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, 5 Apr. 2024 Depending on your predilections, the title might sound like a misnomer, but there’s a lot of pleasure to be had in crisply balanced moderation, just not the kind that tends to turn living artists into legends. Jackson Arn, The New Yorker, 17 Jan. 2024 Isolationism can often be a misnomer because the opponents of entry into World War II were not always neutral but often pro-Hitler, including the famed aviator Charles Lindbergh and the popular anti-Semitic agitator Elizabeth Dilling, who was known as the Female Fuhrer in Germany. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 8 Mar. 2024 One of the quickest ways to also cause your furnace to fail is to run it beyond its capacity, Schutt says, adding there's a misnomer that the air inside your home will be warmer if the thermostat is at a higher set point. Alexandria Burris, The Enquirer, 14 Jan. 2024 Charles Robert Jenkins was growing increasingly uneasy about leading aggressive military patrols near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), a misnomer for the dividing line between South Korea and North Korea, two nations still technically at war today. Francine Uenuma, Smithsonian Magazine, 4 Jan. 2024 In my view classical education (a misnomer for traditional liberal arts education) is something that thoughtful progressives can and should support. Erin Maglaque, The New York Review of Books, 21 Sep. 2023 Although most people believe bear hibernation is a months-long stretch where bears fall asleep in autumn and don’t stir until spring, that’s a misnomer. Natalie Krebs, Outdoor Life, 16 Aug. 2023 The financial district name has become something of a misnomer as the neighborhood, once derided as a desert after the bankers commute home, becomes a vibrant residential enclave at Manhattan’s southernmost tip. Matthew Haag, New York Times, 17 Nov. 2023

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'misnomer.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English misnoumer, from Anglo-French mesnomer, from mes- mis- + nomer to name, from Latin nominare — more at nominate

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of misnomer was in the 15th century

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Dictionary Entries Near misnomer

Cite this Entry

“Misnomer.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/misnomer. Accessed 15 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition

misnomer

noun
mis·​no·​mer (ˈ)mis-ˈnō-mər How to pronounce misnomer (audio)
: a wrong or unsuitable name

Legal Definition

misnomer

noun
mis·​no·​mer ˌmis-ˈnō-mər How to pronounce misnomer (audio)
: the misnaming of a person in a legal document or proceeding (as in a complaint or indictment)
specifically : the institution of proceedings against and service of process on the correct party using the incorrect name compare idem sonans

Note: Amendment of the pleadings is generally allowed in cases of misnomer.

Etymology

Anglo-French mesnomer, from mesnomer to misname, from Middle French mes- wrongly + nommer to name, from Latin nominare, from nomin- nomen name

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