Noun > Misnomer

This word has Latin roots that literally mean “a false or incorrect name.”

A misnomer is an inaccurate name. In other words, a misnomer is something’s name, label, or title that sends the wrong message about it.

miss NO mur

Part of speech:
Noun, the countable kind: “it’s a misnomer,” “these misnomers confused us.”

Other forms:
The plural is “misnomers.”

Although you can use “misnomer” as a verb–“they misnomered this town Mountainview, with no mountain in view”–and although you can talk about misnomered things–“this misnomered town”–it sounds hideously awkward, right?

How to use it:
Refer to some name, word, term, phrase, title, label, nickname, slogan, or catchphrase as a misnomer when it seems to offer an inaccurate description. “Koala bears” is a misnomer: they aren’t bears. “Fireflies” is a misnomer: they aren’t flies. “Glow worms” is a misnomer: they aren’t worms. (They’re marsupials, beetles, and beetles again, respectively.)

Misnomers are often simply funny: technically incorrect but practically unimportant. Most of us aren’t losing sleep because French horns come from Germany or because dry cleaning involves liquid solvents.

But misnomers can be dangerous if they’re manipulative. If you label your product or your piece of legislation with a misnomer, you’re doing the public a disservice.

So how do you work “misnomer” into your sentence? Most often we simply point out that some name is a misnomer, or a bit of a misnomer. We can also say that some name is a misnomer for some thing or concept.

“When French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau made a documentary about the ocean in 1956, he called it The Silent World — a misnomer that researchers today point to with much mirth. In reality, the ocean is a noisy place: waves, marine life and rainfall create their own din.”
— Nicola Jones, Nature, 10 April 2018

“Being vocal groups, most boy band members do not play musical instruments, either in recording sessions or on stage, making the term something of a misnomer.”
— World Heritage Encyclopedia entry on “Boy Band,” 2019