I frequently encounter "vs" words like:

  • prodigal vs prodigious
  • ingenuous vs ingenious
  • affluent vs effluent

These words are very similar but not identical in spelling, and have different meanings. (Since the words are not identical there are not heteronyms)

Is there any term that describes such pairs of words?

  • 2
    – RegDwigнt
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 15:52
  • 2
    There. Now you know. However, if you use this term you'll be forced to explain it, because nobody except specialists ever use it, and even we rarely bother referring to that class generally. Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


The only word to describe what you are asking is paronym.

Bear in mind 'wisdom' is a paronym of 'wise' which differs by more than just one character unlike the examples in your question.

There isn't one word to describe exactly what you have asked but hopefully this answer will suit your needs.

As mentioned by John Lawler in the comments under your question the term is rarely used. In fact it's so rare that the spell-checker software on my Google Chrome web browser doesn't recognise it.

See http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/paronym for in-depth details.

  • 'Wisdom' and 'wise' are related in meaning. Can "paronyms" be used to refer to words different in their meaning?
    – pramttl
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 17:53
  • Those would be 'homographs'. see oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/homograph however I believe they must have the exact same spelling.
    – Aaron
    Commented Jul 17, 2013 at 17:56

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