Words whose definition is clearly wrong.

crepuscular: This word should obviously describe one of the more embarassing symptoms of an unfortunate skin condition, but for some reason the dictionary definition is: “of, relating to, or resembling twilight.” Indubitably, this is some sort of clerical oversight. I could never use crepuscular in a sentence, because it’s just so terribly wrong.

There have been similar threads before, with words that describe disgusting things but which are, taken simply on their own merits, rather pretty, but let’s just make a general list words that simply don’t match their meaning.

crapulent: over-refreshed. Clearly should mean covered with crap.

dipthong- why doesn’t it mean the sounds made by a bunch of consonents together rather than consecutive vowel sounds as in Hawaii?


dongle. it just sounds wrong.

*ideopathic: It’s doctorese for “I’m stumped.” idiotpathetic would fit the bill a whole lot better (as long as it’s clear that it applies to the doctor not the patient). That “ideo” prefix just suggests something far more sophisticated.

I’ve always been of the opinion that “opaque” should mean “see-through.”

Also, “hazel” really ought to be a shade of brown, not green.

Homicide bomber?

(Apologies for verging on the political)

Umm… I was under the impression that it was brown. I did a Google define on it.

Well, in that case, it should clearly be green, and not brown.

Congenial sounds like the opposite of genial.
Or maybe like somebody who was born happy.

Why do you feel that way? Hazelnuts are brown…

And then there is the word “cleave” which means to stick together, or to cut apart.

To be technical, these are actually two different words. The “stick together” version comes from the old high German kleben, to split, while the cut apart comes from the Greek glyphein, to carve.

Defining what is hazel is more complicated than you ever could have imagined. I always thought that it was just a shade of brown too until people started responding to question in GQ.

You can really use it in public! Honest!




One sounds like what happens if you don’t get enough vitamin C. The other sounds like some disease that makes your testicles swell up.

And they are both the names of pretty flowers.

I have a couple more:

copse: Folks, we need to find a better word for a bunch of trees. To me, copse is a word desperately searching for an r. Corpse, cropse, copser . . . any of these would be better than copse. Whenever I see it, my mind tries to make it into a sturdy wooden fortress, or a box made of gleaming, polished wood, near-seamless, constructed by a master joiner. I guess, whatever its flaws, copse at least has a healthy “I have something to do with wood” vibe going for it.

redoubt: I have to admit I’ve only come across this word in literature once or twice, so I don’t really have a good handle on it, but the dictionary says it is a “small, often temporary defensive fortification.” It seems like it sould be something intangible to me. In an ideal world, it would be a verb: “I was dubious about your plan on Monday. On Tuesday, though, I thought there might be something to it. However, on Wednseday I redoubted it.”

Adultery. It sounds like it should mean something to do with the wise, judicious conduct expected of an adult. Instead, it means… “cheating on one’s spouse”. I am insulted.

To add to the insult, the word was imported into Esperanto as the verb adolti with the single meaning of “to cheat on one’s spouse”. “Adult” is plenkreskulo, “fully-grown person” or “grownup”.

A little further digging at YourDictionary reveals that the “cheating” meaning is the original. “Adult” comes from another source.


misdoubt. From m-w.com:

Huh? :confused: It sounds like it should mean “not doubt”. It’s kind of like “irregardless”: it means the same thing as the root word, but with a meaningless negative prefix.

American football. Who named this sport? Given the proportion of game time in which a player’s foot contacts the ball, by their logic, soccer could reasonably have been named headball.

noisome. It clearly should have to do with hearing, rather than smell.