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As onomatopoeia means words that sound like what they mean, is there a word which means words that sound contrary to what they mean? Pulchritude is an example of such a word.

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I suppose they'd be a subset of heterological words, that is words that are the opposite to what they describe. I don't know of a term specifically relating to sound though. There's also a greater degree of subjective opinion in saying "pulchritude is ugly" than in saying "bang sounds like a bang". –  Jon Hanna Feb 11 '13 at 18:05
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While some may find it hard to believe that "pulchritude" could mean anything beautiful, the sound of a word is really in the ear of the beholder. I read a study a while back that polled people on which English word sounded most beautiful and "diarrhea" came in first. If you didn't know what it meant, I guess you could say that the word "sounds" pleasant - but I don't know what you could possibly call that phenomena. –  Kristina Lopez Feb 11 '13 at 18:30
    
@Kristina, since I have read a study affirming that "money" is the most beautiful word, could you tell me where on the earth you have read that claim? –  user19148 Feb 11 '13 at 18:51
    
@Carlo_R., I believe I read it in a newspaper many years ago. I cannot come up with that precise study but there are so many references to "a study" where diarrhea was voted the most beautiful word, I became suspicious and Snoped it. It was not debunked in Snopes so alas, the source is unknown to me. –  Kristina Lopez Feb 11 '13 at 19:13
    
"Money is the most beautiful word" almost certainly does not refer to its beauty as a sound in isolation from considering its meaning. I'd hazard (entirely an opinion) that words such as Nefertiti or Hiawatha * would be gentler on the ear and so "more beautiful" and that words such as Phalanx, Ajax, VAX, ... which use the classic "power" letters (A, J, X ?) would be more striking. * Both are non-English in primary use so perhaps heard differently to "usual" words. ... -> –  Russell McMahon Feb 12 '13 at 2:02
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2 Answers

You're shifting the definition here. "Onomatopoeia" means creating words that sound like the thing or the action that they describe. To the best of my knowledge, this is only used in the literal sense, e.g. we talk about the "buzzing" of a bee to describe a sound that at least resembles the sound "buzz". But in the example you give, you're talking about a subjective evaluation of the idea that a sound brings to your mind. That is, I have never heard anyone say that, for example, "philosophy" is a case of onomatopoeia because the word "philosophy" sounds long and impressive and has a tone that brings deep thought to his mind. That's just not what onomatopoeia means.

The vast majority of words in English are not onomatopoeic. The word "zebra" sounds nothing like the sound made by a zebra; the phrase "internal combusion engine" sounds nothing like the sound made by such an engine; the word "surprise" sounds nothing like the noises made by people who are surprised; etc etc. I guess you could call such words "non-onomatopoeic", I don't know of any specific word. I'm not exactly sure what an "opposite" sound would be. Perhaps you could say that "boss" is a very soft word for creatures who can often be shrill, or that "politician" sounds rather stacato and active for creatures whose talk is usually pretty dull and monotonous. :-)

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That's correct. Onomatopoiea is restricted to words that describe sounds, like ping, buzz, ululate or meow. There is, however, a term for the relation between a word's sound and its meaning, which is Phonosemantics. Pulchritude is a formal word, based on a Latin word, and it doesn't have much in the way of phonosemantics about it; that's mostly restricted to short words like the KL-words. –  John Lawler Feb 11 '13 at 18:28
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Although your examples were not the right ones, according to your description, you are probably talking about one of the following:

  1. Phantonym: An informal term for a word that looks as if it means one thing but actually means quite another. For example, unisex.

    or

  2. Antagonym: word that can mean the opposite of itself. Antagonym are also known as contranyms or autoantonyms. For example, "To overlook" can mean "to inspect" or "to fail to notice."

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