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Look up misnomer in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
A misnomer is a word or term that suggests a meaning that is known to be wrong. Misnomers often arise because the thing named received its name long before its true nature was known. A misnomer may also be simply a word that is used incorrectly or misleadingly. "Misnomer" does not mean "misunderstanding" or "popular misconception".
Pars pro toto, or a name being applied to something which only covers part of a region. The name Holland is often used to refer to the Netherlands while it only designates a part of that country; sometimes people refer to the suburbs of a metropolis with the name of the biggest city in the metropolis.
A name being based on a similarity in a particular aspect (e.g., "shooting stars" look like falling stars but are actually meteors).
A difference between popular and technical meanings of a term. For example, a koala "bear" (see below) looks and acts much like a bear, but in actuality, it is quite distinct and unrelated. Similarly, fireflies fly like flies, and ladybugs look and act like bugs. Botanically, peanuts are not true nuts, even though they look and taste like nuts. The technical sense is often cited as the "correct" sense, but this is a matter of context.
Ambiguity (e.g., a parkway is generally a road with park-like landscaping, not a place to park). Such a term may confuse those unfamiliar.
Association of a thing with a place other than one might assume. For example, Panama hats are made in Ecuador, but came to be associated with the building of the Panama Canal.
Naming peculiar to the originator's world view.
An unfamiliar name (generally foreign) or technical term being re-analyzed as something more familiar (see folk etymology).
Anachronisms, terms being applied to things that belong to another time, especially much later.
An attempt to mislead people. Greenland, which is not green, was so named for the purpose of attracting settlers there.
Older name retained
The "lead" in pencils is made of graphite and clay, not lead; graphite was originally believed to be lead ore, but this is now known not to be the case. The graphite and clay mix is known as plumbago, meaning "lead ore" in Latin, and is still known as "black lead" in Keswick, Cumbria and elsewhere.
Blackboards can be black, green, red or blue. And the sticks of chalk are no longer made of chalk, but of gypsum.
Tin foil is almost always actually aluminum, whereas "tin cans" made for the storage of food products are made from steel plated in a thin layer of tin. In both cases, tin was the original metal.
Telephone numbers are usually referred to as being "dialed" although rotary phones are now rare.
When a computer program is electronically transferred from disk to memory, this is referred to as loading the program. "Load" is a holdover term from the mid-20th century, when programs were created on punched cards and then loaded into a hopper for automated processing.
In golf, the clubs commonly referred to as woods are usually made of metal. The club heads for "woods" were formerly made predominantly of wood.
The Greek root for the word atom, ″atomon,″ means ″that which cannot be divided.″ But the entities we call atoms are made from more fundamental particles.
Difference between common and technical meanings
Koala "bears" are marsupials not closely related to the Ursidae family of bears. The name "koala" is preferred in Australia, where koalas are native, but the term "koala bear" is still in use today outside of Australia.
A quantum leap is properly an instantaneous change which may be either large or small. In physics, it is the smallest possible change that is of particular interest. In common usage, however, the term is often taken to mean a large, abrupt change.
^ abGarner, Bryan (2009). Garner's Modern American Usage (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 542. ISBN978-0-19-538275-4.