Is there a word that describes that something has been named "incorrectly" on purpose (a sort of intentional misnomer)? For example, calling someone who is very tall Shorty (or something to that effect).

3 Answers 3


How about malicious malapropism?

[While a malapropism is usually unintentional, the adjective suggests the deliberate twist.]

  • Hmm- maybe, I don't want to suggest it's mean spirited... Jun 21, 2013 at 22:08
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    @batpigandme Maybe jocular malapropism?
    – bib
    Jun 21, 2013 at 22:11
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    @batpigandme or to maintain the consonance, mischievous malapropism?
    – bib
    Jun 21, 2013 at 22:23
  • Jocular malapropism is perfect (though I definitely plan on making use of mischievous malapropism when I'm feeling alliterative...) Jun 22, 2013 at 0:19

If the intentional misnomer disparages something positive (as, arguably, calling a tall person Shorty does), it qualifies as a dysphemism. From The Oxford Companion to the English Language (1992):

DYSPHEMISM In rhetoric, the use of a negative or disparaging expression to describe something or someone, such as calling a Rolls-Royce a jalopy. A cruel or offensive dysphemism is a cacophemism.

Another candidate (though not quite so apt) from the same source is meiosis:

MEIOSIS In rhetoric, a kind of understatement that dismisses or belittles, especially by using terms that make something seem less significant than it really is or ought to be: for example, calling a serious wound a scratch, or a journalist a hack or a scribbler.

  • I guess I'm thinking of a less disparaging tone, but cool word! Jun 21, 2013 at 22:09
  • Plus one for "rhetoric"! Jun 22, 2013 at 23:12
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    I would simply add, or add simply, whichever you prefer, that naming something wrongly and intentionally is a mild form of irony and is sometimes totally lacking in imagination. Calling a tall person "Shorty," or a milquetoast "Tiger" is just too facile! Jun 22, 2013 at 23:28

Antiphrasis! Sometimes conflated with litotes.


the usually ironic or humorous use of words in senses opposite to the generally accepted meanings (as in "this giant of 3 feet 4 inches")

[Merriam Webster]


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