I was wondering if there is a word to describe someone whose name is diametrically oppossed to who they are. For instance a firefighter whose last name is "Arson" or a swimmer whose last name is "Dry".

  • 1
    I wouldn't have expected there to be a word for that. Surprised that there's precedent for it! Oct 15 '13 at 0:29
  • Also look at 'nominative determinism'
    – user198373
    Sep 28 '16 at 9:05

Aptronym is the word for a name aptly suited to its owner. ("Allegedly coined by the American newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams" 1881-1960. Also see Encyclopedia Britannica.)

(Another word meaning the same thing is "euonym".)

Inaptronym is an ironic form of an aptronym, and examples are given at the link.

Given the linkage in at least one of the references to the word "malapropism", I suggest the neologism malaptronym.

Another possibility (also coined) is misaptronym.

To be more precise, though, the prefix mal- generally means "bad" or "badly" and the prefix mis generally means "wrong" (or "astray"). The prefix anti means "opposite". So a name that means the opposite of what a person does might be antiaptronym. (Contra-aptronym too, maybe, but it's a little hard to say.)

  • It would be so much better if the opposite of an apt(r)onym were an inept(r)onym. Oct 14 '13 at 23:22
  • 1
    I think contraptronym, with a single A, would be the right way to form that word, but then it sounds like contraption. Oct 15 '13 at 0:28

I would call that an ironic name (warning, tvtropes).


You would commonly refer to this as a misnomer.

a misapplied or inappropriate name or designation.

an incorrect or unsuitable name or term for a person or thing, that conveys a misleading impression.

You can also call it a caconym -and therefore caconymous as opposed to euonymous (appropriately named).

  • Misnomer and caconym are the result of a deliberate act of naming something where the name is incidentally inappropriate or objectionable. I think the OP is looking for a term describing the coincidental disagreement between a person's name and their occupation. Oct 16 '13 at 1:17
  • Jim - I'm sorry but could you point me to a reference that suggests such a distinction?
    – user49727
    Oct 16 '13 at 10:09
  • 1
    I don't think a misnomer has to necessarily be a deliberate act of naming, but using it does imply that a name is incorrect, inaccurate, or misleading. Consider the firefighter named Arson. It would be absurd to say that the firefighter's name is incorrect, inaccurate, or misleading because of his chosen profession. But that's exactly what you'd be doing by calling it a "misnomer".
    – Ben Lee
    Oct 18 '13 at 22:41
  • If you want a source, see the wikipedia article. This explains the way the word is used much better than your cited dictionary definitions (and I'd even argue that that first cited definition of yours is poorly worded definition that doesn't really give the whole story).
    – Ben Lee
    Oct 18 '13 at 22:43
  • I think you seem to be implying that the question is absurd?
    – user49727
    Oct 19 '13 at 9:31

I'd agree with Jim, with the caveat that as aptronym is a Greek-rooted word its opposite should be dysaptronym. But it seems that inaptronym is Wikipedia-canonical.

  • Is 'apt' 'Greek-rooted'?
    – user49727
    Oct 17 '13 at 16:06
  • @user49727 The Etymonline entry places it as from Latin aptus, rooted in PIE prefix *ap-.
    – Myles
    Sep 23 '16 at 11:27

There are two types of these names: ironic ones which are quite coincidental, like Angela Slim, the 500lb bariatric patient or Martin Fish who drowned in Lake Huron. Then there are those which are given monikers, like my chihuaua named Goliath and my bullmastiff we call Ms Tiny. The latter, being deliberate are planned misapronyms and are meant to invoke humor and but the former unfortunate ones are likely 'inaptronyms'. It might be safer to prefix according to the intent.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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