English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

It isn't any of the words on this page and I believe it started with the letter 'e' (though please offer your word even if it doesn't).

Example sentence: Because he researched what he had heard from his friends, he was able to refute many of their _________________.

Factoid seems to be the closest one, but the word I am looking for only refers to a belief that is false.

share|improve this question
I would suggest "urban legend," except that term does not automatically imply "false." – cobaltduck Jan 5 at 20:03
Are you thinking of apocryphal? – TRomano Jan 5 at 20:55
Reading your example sentence, the first word to pop into mind was simply "arguments", although that doesn't imply factual correctness or incorrectness – Izkata Jan 5 at 22:05
A less common word is misbelief. – ermanen Jan 7 at 5:47

11 Answers 11

I think the word misconception fits in your sentence:

Because he researched what he had heard from his friends, he was able to refute many of their misconceptions.

Misconception does necessarily mean false. Definition:

A view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding.


Public misconceptions about AIDS remain high.

A myth is similar. Definition:

A widely held but false belief or idea.


He wants to dispel the myth that sea kayaking is too risky or too strenuous.

More synonyms include:

error, misbelief, miscalculation, false impression, fallacy, false notion, old wives' tale, urban myth/legend

(Oxford Dictionaries Online: factoid, misconception, myth)

share|improve this answer
I edited your answer - feel free to roll it back if you don't agree with my changes. – Kristina Lopez Jan 5 at 20:37
It's a bit nonstandard, but I'm rather fond of combining your suggestions into a portmanteau: a "mythconception". – requiem Jan 6 at 5:07
@requiem poor Daffy, everyone makes fun of his lisp. – terdon Jan 6 at 10:35

While not a single word, an old wives' tale may address the OP's query.

From the Wikipedia page:

Old wives tale is an epithet used to indicate that a supposed truth is actually a superstition or something untrue, to be ridiculed. It can be said sometimes to be a type of urban legend, said to be passed down by older women to a younger generation. Such "tales" are considered superstition, folklore or unverified claims with exaggerated and/or inaccurate details. (emphasis added)

One can infer that the false believe becomes more credible through repetition.

Old wives' tales originate in the oral tradition of storytelling. They were generally propagated by illiterate women, telling stories to each other or to children.

share|improve this answer

You may refer to:

  • received ideas
  • preconceived ideas
  • common beliefs
  • stereotypes

Some other possibilities, perhaps less appropriate, are:

  • conventional wisdom
  • accepted ideas
  • accepted notions
  • pre-existing thought
  • usual thought
  • popular thinking
  • traditional thinking
  • stereotypical beliefs
share|improve this answer
None of these implies the belief is false. – Jacinto Jan 5 at 20:48
@Jacinto - true, but in many cases as in the example provided by the OP, it can be deduced from the context. – Graffito Jan 5 at 20:52
Long lists of near synonyms are never ideal, I might agree with only two of the suggestions and strongly disagree with three, so how would I vote? – Mari-Lou A Jan 6 at 8:01
@Mari-LouA - I edited my answer. – Graffito Jan 6 at 11:23
"The "*" denotes my best suggestions." But you used none. Also, I would agree with Jacinto. – black Jan 6 at 12:12

I think that "sacred cow" is a pretty good fit. A sacred cow is not necessarily false, but the term does have a negative connotation.

[noun] someone or something that has been accepted or respected for a long time and that people are afraid or unwilling to criticize or question

share|improve this answer

The first 'e' word that came to mind for me was 'error' or erroneous beliefs.

share|improve this answer
Welcome to EL&U. This answer was flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. Can you try to include reference/link and its essential parts to your answer? Please take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance. – Rathony Jan 6 at 8:31

Perhaps you are thinking of "espousal" - although it emphasizes belief, and not whether it is true or false.

share|improve this answer

Myth, urban legend, believer, sacred cow

share|improve this answer

We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Welcome to EL&U. This answer was flagged as low-quality because of its length and content. Can you try to include reference/link and its essential parts to your answer? Please take the tour and visit our help center for additional guidance. – Rathony Jan 6 at 8:31

DOGMA is the closest I can think of. It does not actually mean a false belief, it is more of a blind faith in a doctrine or belief. It has gotten the negative implication of being believed even in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is wrong i.e. Flat world society.

The closest E word I can think of would be ecclesiastical, as in ecclesiastical arguments. This also does not mean false, just religious. Though the meaning tends to be for religious descriptions, it would work for you in the context that the points have been taken on faith because the "They" people said it enough to be "true".

share|improve this answer
While dogma has primarily religious context, I quote from Other uses section: "The term "dogmatic" can be used disparagingly to refer to any belief that is held stubbornly, including political and scientific beliefs." So the motivation for "dogma" is different from motivation for word in question ("because they have heard it repeated so many times"). – miroxlav Jan 6 at 21:49

What you describe reminds me of Memes, although that word does not fit the example sentence (a meme is a mere mental concept while what you look for is a concrete utterance.)

Pretense seems to fit (in the sense of an unsupported claim). It contains three Es!

Some combination with parrot[ing/ed], like "parroted claims" or even the bare "he was able to refute many of their parrotings" would emphasize the repetitive and thoughtless aspect of both adaption and echoing.

share|improve this answer
I think that this word fits best with the "repetition" aspect of his question, especially when it comes to common opinions. Meme was the first word that popped into my head when I read the question. As far as his sentence example goes, however, I don't think that "meme" is the best fit. – William Papsco Jan 6 at 0:40
@WilliamPapsco That is true, it would not fit the example sentence. I must have read the post incompletely. – Peter A. Schneider Jan 6 at 10:31

How about Delusion? "An idiosyncratic belief or impression maintained despite being contradicted by reality or rational argument, typically as a symptom of mental disorder" (Oxford, not all sources mention "mental disorder").

share|improve this answer

protected by Community Jan 5 at 22:53

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.