What Is a Misnomer? | Definition, Meaning & Examples
Misnomer is a noun that refers to a wrong, misleading, or inappropriate use of a name or designation. It’s also used to refer to the misleading name or designation itself.
In legal contexts, misnomer has a similar meaning. It’s used to refer to the use of an incorrect name in a legal document and to the legal processes related to this offense (e.g., “law of misnomer”).
Examples of misnomers
There are numerous examples of commonly used misnomers.
|Koala bears||A koala bear is actually a marsupial, not a bear.|
|Light-year||A light-year is a measure of distance, not time. It’s the distance light will travel in a vacuum in one year.|
|Chinese checkers||This game is not of Chinese origin and is not actually related to the game checkers. It’s officially called Sternhalma.|
|Peanuts||Peanuts are technically legumes, not nuts.|
|Holy Roman Empire||Voltaire famously joked that the Holy Roman Empire was “neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”|
|Lead pencil||Pencils contain graphite and clay, not lead.|
Other interesting language articles
If you want to know more about commonly confused words, definitions, and differences between US and UK spellings, make sure to check out some of our other language articles with explanations, examples, and quizzes.
US vs. UK spellings
Frequently asked questions
- What is a synonym of “misnomer”?
- What is an example of a misnomer?
Some well-known examples of terms that are or have been viewed as misnomers, but are still widely used, include:
- Koala bears
- Chinese checkers
- Lead pencil
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