is the wrong use of a name for something or someone inappropriate or undeserving:

• My name of Epic's no misnomer —Byron, 1818

• Morning sickness is a misnomer —it can strike at any time —The Guardian, 2000

• ‘Copy cat’ is a misnomer because cats never copy anybody —C. Van Vechten, 1996.

It originated as a legal word meaning ‘a mistake in naming a person or thing’ and was often used as a ‘non-count’ noun like fraud (as in committing misnomer rather than a misnomer). Acts of the reign of Victoria were riddled with the proviso ‘no misnomer or inaccurate description…shall hinder the full operation of this Act’. It was, characteristically, a lawyers' escape route. As often happens with underused words, usage put it to work among the ordinary people, and it came to mean ‘the use of a wrong name’ in any context, which is the meaning current today (as in the examples given above).
Now misnomer is being watered down even further in contexts that are not about the suitability of a name:

• A Christianity without peace would be a misnomer —Catez Stevens, 2004.

[What is meant is ‘contradiction in terms’]

• It might seem a misnomer to label an MPV as having good looks —Scotsman, 2005.

In these examples, there is no question of a name being wrongly applied, but of a word or phrase being inappropriately used. The better word here is misconception or even just mistake.

Modern English usage. 2014.

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • misnomer — mis·no·mer /ˌmis nō mər/ n [Anglo French mesnomer, from mesnomer to misname, from Middle French mes wrongly + nommer to name, from Latin nominare, from nomin nomen name]: the misnaming of a person in a legal document or proceeding (as in a… …   Law dictionary

  • Misnomer — Mis*no mer, n. [OF. pref. mes amiss, wrong (L. minus less) + F. nommer to name, L. nominare, fr. nomen name. See {Name}.] The misnaming of a person in a legal instrument, as in a complaint or indictment; any misnaming of a person or thing; a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Misnomer — Mis*no mer, v. t. To misname. [R.] [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • misnomer — (n.) mid 15c., mistaken identification of an accused or convicted person, from Anglo French, O.Fr. mesnomer to misname, wrongly name, noun use of infinitive, from mes wrongly (see MIS (Cf. mis ) (2)) + nomer to name, from L. nominare nominate… …   Etymology dictionary

  • misnomer — ► NOUN 1) an inaccurate or misleading name. 2) the wrong use of a name or term. ORIGIN from Old French mesnommer misname , from Latin nomen name …   English terms dictionary

  • misnomer — [mis nō′mər] n. [ME misnoumer < OFr mesnommer, inf. used as n. < mes ,MIS 1 + nommer, to name < L nominare: see NOMINATE] 1. a) the act of applying a wrong name or epithet to some person or thing b) such a name or epithet …   English World dictionary

  • Misnomer — (Roget s Thesaurus) < N PARAG:Misnomer >N GRP: N 1 Sgm: N 1 misnomer misnomer Sgm: N 1 lucus a non lucendo lucus a non lucendo Sgm: N 1 Mrs Mrs GRP: N 2 Sgm: N 2 Malaprop Malaprop Sgm: N 2 what d ye call em what d ye call em …   English dictionary for students

  • misnomer — UK [mɪsˈnəʊmə(r)] / US [mɪsˈnoʊmər] noun [countable] Word forms misnomer : singular misnomer plural misnomers a name or description that is incorrect or unsuitable Cottage is perhaps a misnomer for such a large house. a bit of/something of a… …   English dictionary

  • misnomer — n. a misnomer to + inf. (it s a misnomer to call this village a city) * * * [mɪs nəʊmə] a misnomer to + inf. (it s a misnomer to call this village a city) …   Combinatory dictionary

  • misnomer — 1. noun /mɪsˈnəʊmə,mɪsˈnoʊmɚ/ a) A use of a term asserted to be misleading. Calling it a driveway is a bit of a misnomer, since you dont drive on it, you park on it. b) A term asserted to be widely used incorrectly. Chinese checkers is a misnomer …   Wiktionary

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