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Yes, this is a very pedantic question! Is the musical instrument called the triangle badly named? The instrument in question has three sides, but only two angles. Might the name tricosta or triparte be more appropriate?

In some languages the name of the geometric shape for which the instrument is named does in fact mean "three sides" as opposed to "three angles", such as Hebrew (משולש). Therefore the name is in fact appropriate in these languages. This question only refers to the English name of the instrument, without consideration for translations, etymology, or use in other languages.

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closed as not constructive by Armen Ծիրունյան, Mahnax, cornbread ninja 麵包忍者, Robusto, Jasper Loy Jul 18 '12 at 16:18

As it currently stands, this question is not a good fit for our Q&A format. We expect answers to be supported by facts, references, or expertise, but this question will likely solicit debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion. If you feel that this question can be improved and possibly reopened, visit the help center for guidance.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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In Russian, the instrument is called (музыкальный) треугольник, which literally means (musical) triANGLE. The same is in Armenian, եռանկյունի, which also means three ANGLES. So English is not unique in this sense –  Armen Ծիրունյան Jul 18 '12 at 16:06
    
Thank you Mahnax. I find this question constructive as I am not an expert in the English language. I would like to solicit the opinion of experts in the field regarding borderline cases such as this. The goal is not to change the name of the instrument. –  dotancohen Jul 18 '12 at 16:11
    
Why the downvote? Downvoter, please explain so that I might improve the question. I don't care about the rep, but I do care about keeping the E.SE site full of quality questions. Thanks. –  dotancohen Jul 18 '12 at 16:18
    
@JasperLoy: Yes, but the part removed is one of the angles! So it is now a biangle. –  dotancohen Jul 18 '12 at 16:20
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@dotancohen the third angle is implied. The instrument wouldn't vibrate as well without the missing part. –  cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 18 '12 at 16:23

1 Answer 1

It is dangerous to assume that an English word means the same thing as its two component parts! It can be a helpful tool to discern the meaning of new words, but try not to rely on it. Context clues are way more important.

In English, the word "triangle" means a closed polygon with three sides. As such, it is an appropriate name for the instrument.

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Three sides, or three angles? A closed polygon having either property would ensure the other, but this assurance is not guaranteed as we use the word for other similar devices (such as the musical instrument in question). As noted in the OP, the instrument is not a closed polygon so the name might not be appropriate. –  dotancohen Jul 18 '12 at 16:17

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