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

I'm trying to organise a series of items, depending on whether these are known, unknown or known incorrectly to the observer.

I don't like the "know incorrectly" formulation. Is there a single word describing this?

PS: it seems the question was unclear. I am referring here to "known" as in "recognised". So I am categorising the objects as "recognised", "unrecognised" or "incorrectly recognised". (eg. you see the Eiffel Tower and shout "Look! The Bamiyan Buddha is still standing!")

share|improve this question
Can you give an example of "knowing incorrectly" - is it identifying an item wrong (by mistake), or telling a lie about the item or soemthing else? – JoseK Aug 8 '11 at 12:59
I mean "something that the observer believes to know, but recognised wrongly". – Benjamin Aug 8 '11 at 13:18
up vote 10 down vote accepted


To mistake the identity.


  1. (psychology, computing) To recognize in error This process of misrecognizing one's self in the image in the mirror creates the ego, the entity that says 'I.'

  2. (sociology) To deliberately fail to recognize, or pretend to do so When people did participate in blat practice, they misrecognized their actions through narratives of friendship.

share|improve this answer
I like this! :) – Benjamin Aug 8 '11 at 13:42

How about misrecognized from

misrecognize (Wiktionary)

  1. (psychology, computing) To recognize in error.
  2. (sociology) To deliberately fail to recognize, or pretend to do so.

misrecognize (Oxford)

  1. mistake the identity of.

or misidentified from

misidentify (Wiktionary)

  1. To mistake the identity.

misidentify (Oxford)

  1. identify (something or someone) incorrectly.
share|improve this answer
Note to self: press [Save] immediately after having a draft answer, do formatting afterwards :) – oleschri Aug 9 '11 at 11:24

You may be looking for misunderstanding:

mis·un·der·stand·ing (msn-dr-stndng) n.
1. A failure to understand or interpret correctly.

Synonyms are misapprehension and mistake.

share|improve this answer
I doubt it can be said of an object that it is "misunderstood" if its observer fails to recognise it. – Benjamin Aug 8 '11 at 13:19
@Benjamin: Sure it can, as perhaps you misunderstood my answer as failing to apply to the situation you describe. Or I may have misunderstood your question. Either way, what we appear to have now is a misunderstanding. – Robusto Aug 8 '11 at 13:26


a mistaken belief, a wrong idea

There are several common misconceptions about the theory of relativity.
You're obviously under the misconception that I care about your problems.
share|improve this answer
I think the word would not apply to my situation. Objects are shown on pictures and are not recognised as what they are but mistaken for something else. I sense that misconception would be the same situation, but without the pictures, ie. on a conceptual level only. What do you think? – Benjamin Aug 8 '11 at 13:40

misknow (v. t.):

To have a misconception of
To have a mistaken notion of or about.

You can use misknown or misinterpreted.

share|improve this answer
I didn't know miskown existed. It comes handy :) – Benjamin Aug 8 '11 at 13:40
@Benjamin: even though this exists in a dictionary, this is pretty rare (do a Google Ngram on it and pretty much any other word), and pretty opaque to a modern listener (myself). – Mitch Aug 8 '11 at 16:39

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

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