Words that, to you, don't sound like what they should mean

For example, before I found out what “swoon” actually meant, I thought it meant puking. Seriously - if you’d never heard that word before, I’d bet five pesos you’d’ve thought the same, no? To me, it totally sounds like puking. That was decades ago - my sister was talking about one of her stupid Victorian romance novels, and “swoon” came up (ha - as it were), and was I like - really? it means to faint in a pique of romantic bliss? Huh.

“Veracity” sounds like a weird mix of “voracious” and “irascible”, making me think that, instead of truthfulness.

Can’t use “prostrate” because that makes me think too much of “prostate”.

“donnybrook” - sounds more bucolic than anything, to me, because of the “brook”.

So - any other deceitful, misleading, disconcerting, flabbergasting, and then possibly life-destroying words that sound like, to you, that they should have a different meaning, simply because of the onomatopoeic impression it makes on you?

Nothing woody or tinny, please.

The word ‘pompatus’ sounds like it should mean something. Yet it doesn’t. Does that count?

I always have problems with the word “doozy”. It sounds like “easy”, “lazy” or “breezy”. It seems to me that a “doozy” should be something simple or unimpressive, instead of basically the opposite if that.

In flagrante delicto always makes me think whomever was caught wasn’t so much in the act, in the middle of action, as highly visible and flaming more than a gay bonfire. Picture someone breaking and entering in platforms, lots of sequins and headgear that required the extinction of a whole species of bird.

And the image is not a stereotype, this one is at the very least a 4Dtype.

“dubious” Seems like it should be honorable or something. It ain’t.

This is making me laugh so hard right now, and I’m not certain why.

As a kid, I always thought highfalutin was an improperly-pronounced gerund, and decided to myself that to highfalute had something to do with a musical instrument.

Now that I’m an adult, I find it amusing that people who use the word “highfalutin” are, themselves, highfalutin. I am also discovering that typing it over and over again makes it look more misspelled every time.


I’m pretty sure this is a cow disease that got misplaced in the dictionary by a drunk lexicographer.

“Inconceivable” It just doesn’t mean what you think it does.

Cathartic. Sounds to me like something given to induce vomiting.

Pulchritudinous does NOT sound like it means “Beautiful” to my ear.

When I was a kid, I thought **melancholy **sounded like it was something fun - it has a rhythmic up and down to its pronunciation.


Sounds exactly like the opposite of what it means.

I’m not quite sure what I think “plebiscite” should mean–possibly something medical, or involving human cells.

It certainly doesn’t sound like it should have anything to do with voting.

I love both melons and collies, so why wouldn’t it mean something awesome?

“Pianist” does not sound like it would refer to a person who plays the piano.

One time when I was a wee one my older cousin and I were playing hockey in the basement, with me in net and him shooting on me.
To my dismay I noticed his lack of co-ordination, or at the very least his unfamiliarity with the game, as he ponderously wound up for a shot that ended up going way wide, or fanning on it. He was barely ten feet away.
His complete lack of finesse made this nine(?) y.o. chirp (the cherub that I was) something along the lines of “I don’t like the way you play”.
At this, he took a bit more time making a shot, trying to modify his follow-through, but still looking completely Dr. Sadguts at it, and after a couple shots he said, “there - those are legitmate shots.”
New to that L word, I took it to mean fast, since his shots were getting a little faster. (And it even just…sounded fast to me.) From there, I made use of that word in the car, and upon seeing a souped-up car going really fast off the line, I said, “ooo-whooooowwwowwww! that car was le*-git*imate!”
Getting a :dubious: from dad, he soon set me straight on that.

I’m curious if anyone agrees with any of the examples given so far. I think there’s something about the circumstances when you first hear a word that might make you misunderstand it, but those circumstances will be different for each of us. For the words given so far, while I can kinda see what you all are getting at, they never carried those misinterpretations for me.

One that did was penultimate. Sounds like it should mean something even more than ultimate, like you want to exaggerate its ultimate-ness, something that’s better than the best thing ever and then some.

I don’t remember when I discovered what it actually means. I think I felt a bit let down.

Brilliant - how about I spell the word in question “legitimate” correctly.

The ultimate (ha) example.

And a couple days ago some doorknob misusing it.

It doesn’t work unless a baby is involved. :smiley:

I always mix up the words sleet and hail, because sleet just sounds all slick and icy and dangerous, and hail just sounds kind of wet and yucky but not too harmful.

Also, whenever I see the word niggardly, I always feel like the black race was just dissed.