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A misnomer is (1) a name that gives a misleading impression, or (2) a mistake in naming something. It’s an old word with many centuries of use in English,1 and it is especially useful because it has no concise synonyms. Yet in today’s English, the word is commonly misused as a synonym of either misstatement or misperception.

These writers, for example, use misnomer where they obviously mean misstatement (or some similar word):

Madhya Pradesh is one of the less fancied teams currently in the Ranji Trophy. This statement might be a bit of a misnomer considering the glorious history of the cricket team. [Cricbuzz]

Indeed, the upheaval of recent times has had such a shape-shifting impact on the landscape that to talk of “a possible return to Rangers” for Smith would be a misnomer. [Scotsman]

These writers use misnomer where they seem to mean misperception:

HotelTonight executives said the app’s association with discounting is a misnomer, promising the company “is truly on the hoteliers’ side.” [HotelNewsNow.com]

Since I can remember, there has been this misnomer regarding young emerging growth companies that they had no place in the public markets. [Crowdsourcing]

The notion that there are only two types of diabetes is a misnomer. [St. Louis American]

And we can’t explain this writer’s unconventional use of misnomer:

How much has Ryan Tannehill improved since the season started and are the statistics a misnomer when measuring his progress? [Cincinnati.com]

In contrast, these writers use the word well:

Most other stay-at-home (SAH) moms will probably agree that our job title is a misnomer. We practically live in our minivans. [Fayetteville Observer]

In the context of US presidential elections, “debate” is something of a misnomer. [The Australian]

The “Bronx Bombers” turned out to be a misnomer as they set records for post season offensive ineptitude. [Huffington Post]

Commentators have warned that if nothing is done immediately, the country will go off a “fiscal cliff,” but the term is actually a misnomer. [Atlantic]


1. Misnomer in the OED (subscription required)