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In which contexts the usage vary?

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closed as general reference by RegDwigнt Jul 1 '12 at 14:12

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Though they both imply there is some kind of mistake, they are pretty different kinds of mistakes.

  • a fallacy is an error in inference. You have some facts and do some reasoning but come to a faulty (or unsubstantiated) conclusion. Then you've committed a 'fallacy'. Coming to a wrong conclusion is a fallacy.

  • a misnomer is simply a wrong name for something, in the sense that the given accepted name is at odds with the nature of the things itself. A 6'7" basketball player named 'Shorty' has a misnomer (the name 'Shorty' is a misnomer).

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A fallacy is a common misconception. A logical fallacy is one type of example.

Misnomer refers, more specifically, to a wrong name or inappropriate designation -- for instance, calling Native Americans "Indians."

An easy way to remember the difference is to remember that misnomer is derived from the the Latin word for "name," nominare.

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...Or calling them Native Americans. :) Some would point out that thee folks were here before the European explorers got around to renting boats. The term I've heard recently that I liked was "First Nations". – Hack Saw Apr 7 '11 at 18:53

I think Wikipedia has one of the better succinct definitions: "...a fallacy is incorrect reasoning in argumentation resulting in a misconception." It should be noted that there are a number of distinct logical fallacies, and that an entire section of philosophy is devoted to them. The referenced link is a good start for exploring the various flavors of fallacies.

@Mitch's answer to a misnomer is well stated.

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A fallacy has a technical and a common usage, but both could be loosely summarized as "an error in reasoning" or a "logical fault".

Poor reasoning can also be called fallacious reasoning.

"Begging the question" is an example of a fallacy. From nobelief's fallacy list:

begging the question (or assuming the answer): (e.g., We must encourage our youth to worship God to instill moral behavior.) But does religion and worship actually produce moral behavior?

Here's an example usage from a comment on Serendipity: Or, What has Software Engineering got to do with Climate Change?

I only bother to bring it up because, IMHO, an appreciation of this fallacy is necessary to appreciate the real differences between technical software validation and its verification.

Something being a 'fallacy' tends to indicate an error of process.

A misnomer is simply misnaming something, or calling something by the wrong name or a misleading name.

This can be minute and technical or broad and ideological or philosophical:

Calling that little hill Mount Brawn is an egregious misnomer.

Calling that a budget plan is a misnomer -- there's no plan, it's just budget fraud.

It is incorrect to use misnomer to mean an incorrect assumption, poor reasoning, or more general kind of error where another word should be used instead:

Don't use it this way, please:

It's a misnomer that all dogs bark.

Ugh. From the another comment found in the wilds of the Internet:

Again, please, no:

There's still a misnomer that single women pushing thirty are fatally flawed or intimidating[...]

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