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I'm searching for a certain single, rare, literary word meaning "something taken as truth due to having been repeated so much". This "something" could be either true or false. It is not necessarily pernicious or benign.

An example of such a "something" (at the risk of getting political) is that Osama Bin Laden was killed in May 2011.

Does anyone know the word I'm searching for?

P.S.: "Factoid" is ticked — however, there may exist an even better fit.

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    fact +‎ -oid; coined by Norman Mailer in Marilyn (1973): "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority". An inaccurate statement or statistic believed to be true because of broad repetition, especially if cited in the media. – d'alar'cop Feb 1 '14 at 14:17
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    @Mitch It doesn't say anything about it being potentially unjustified.... – d'alar'cop Feb 1 '14 at 16:24
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    @Mitch Even I remember having seen truism used in the sense of factoid, whether that's one of the alternate meanings or the author's mistaken use in stead of factoid I am not sure. However, I could not find a reliable source that defines truism that way at all. Even the MW reference you cite does not define the word that way. I had checked that one before. – Kris Feb 2 '14 at 6:57
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    That's a pretty bad example, considering that it was a case where evidence was indeed presented. Even if it wasn't true and all that evidence was faked as part of some conspiracy, it still wouldn't count. – Jon Hanna Feb 10 '14 at 11:42
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    "An example of such a "something" (at the risk of getting political) is that Osama Bin Laden was killed in May 2011". No it's not; the reason people believe he was killed was that evidence was presented to that effect; whether it's true or not, it's not something believed just due to repetition. – Jon Hanna Feb 10 '14 at 11:48

15 Answers 15

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Proof by (repeated) assertion?

… is an informal fallacy in which a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction. Sometimes, this may be repeated until challenges dry up, at which point it is asserted as fact due to its not being contradicted (argumentum ad nauseam). In other cases, its repetition may be cited as evidence of its truth, in a variant of the appeal to authority or appeal to belief fallacies.

factoid ?

an item of unreliable information that is reported and repeated so often that it becomes accepted as fact: he addresses the facts and factoids which have buttressed the film’s legend

Note (from same source): North American a brief or trivial item of news or information: how does the brain retain factoids that you remember from a history test at school?

The North American usage is different from the basic meaning of the word.

  • Also, nice job with the "logical fallacy"/"cognitive bias" link... I should have added that myself. – d'alar'cop Feb 1 '14 at 12:21
  • Nice to be help. The first is phrase, not a word, so that could not be an answer in the strict sense. The second has a different meaning in AmE from what it is mostly ascribed with in literature. I had always known and used factoid in the sense of a fallacy, not a bit of trivia. – Kris Feb 1 '14 at 12:24
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    Yes, indeed, the "answer" is not the first part. My memory must have simply been unclear about the spuriousness of the "fact" - factoid (non-AmE) is the word I was searching for. – d'alar'cop Feb 1 '14 at 12:25
5

How about, "received wisdom"? "The received wisdom is that Alberto Fujimori is responsible for the capture of the head of the guerilla group Sendero Luminoso, but in fact he had nothing to do with it." Also, "accepted version"?

3

Woozle Effect

Or just woozle, referencing the woozle in Winnie the Pooh for which the only evidence is the reports of the woozle.

Proof by Citation

  • I like "Proof by Citation." It reminded me of this discussion over this comic, which refers to a similar phenomenon with citogenesis, "a play on the word cytogenesis... [which is] the formation of cells and their development. Citogenesis... is a portmanteau of 'Citation' and 'Genesis'." – user39720 Mar 28 '14 at 8:19
3

'Apocryphal' is the word I've heard for this. The dictionary says it means, "of doubtful authenticity." But colloquially I think it often implies doubtful but often thought to be true (because it's been repeated).

1

Try "Hearsay" or "Ouï-dire" from the french, then if not suitable go with "Tale" or "Tall Tale" if fallacies.

  • I appreciate the additional work... Indeed 'factoid' may not really be the word I was searching for... – d'alar'cop Feb 1 '14 at 14:22
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    The problem with 'Hearsay' is that it implies that people think of it as rumour... whereas 'factoid' implies that it has been widely accepted as fact – d'alar'cop Feb 1 '14 at 14:30
  • In law, hearsay is a technical term which describes a type of evidence. Just because evidence is "hearsay" doesn't mean that it is unreliable. All documents, for example, are hearsay. It is too bad that the popular definition of the term seems to indicate evidence which is inherently unreliable. – user26732 Feb 21 '14 at 13:05
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This is perhaps a bit reaching but you could call it a 'recursive truth'. Something that is true because it is true.

Alternatives:

'Truth by repetition'

'Truth by mantra'

0

The words stereotype or cliche might serve the purpose.

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A single word could be "myth". A couple of double word phrases could be "conventional wisdom" or "urban legend".

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    Welcome to EL&U. The uses of myth, conventional wisdom, and urban legend are rather different; your answer would be improved by providing examples and an explanation of how each would be used. I also encourage you to take the site tour and review the help center for guidance. – choster Oct 30 '14 at 16:23
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What about this oneTautologous It is defined by being true by its logical form alone; and if logical might be oft repeated as a valid form of truth.

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There is a word meaning something that is said and asserted to be true but actually untrue, the word is canard.

It does carry the connotation that the statement in question is believed to be true from having been bandied about a lot - in that sense it partly fulfils your requirements.

Canard: An unfounded rumour or story:

the old canard that LA is a cultural wasteland

Oxford Dictionaries. (accessed April 01, 2016).

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I wonder if you're thinking of idée reçue, which is French, but has by now become absorbed into English.
From the Encyclopedia Britannica: Idée reçue, ( French: “received idea”) an idea that is unexamined. The phrase is particularly associated with Gustave Flaubert, who in his Le Dictionnaire des idées reçues (published posthumously in 1913; Flaubert’s Dictionary of Accepted Ideas) mocked the use of clichés and platitudes and the uncritical reliance on accepted ideas.

  • It may be a received idea, but I don't think it's been very well received. – Hot Licks Apr 13 '16 at 2:40
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This sounds like a form of logical fallacy, and Wikipedia has a big list of those.

Maybe argument from repetition or perhaps proof by repeated assertion.

There are quotes noting this same point, for example: ‘A reliable way to make people believe in falsehoods is frequent repetition, because familiarity is not easily distinguished from truth. Authoritarian institutions and marketers have always known that fact.’, attributed to "Kahneman 2012 p. 62". Maybe one of the people who has taken note of this phenomenon has coined a word for it.

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I think the word your are looking for is Heuristic.

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    Hello Morgan and welcome to SE! When answering a signle-word-request question on the site, consider adding the following to your answer: 1. A dictionary definition of the word you've chosen to suggest. 2. An example sentence using that word (if applicable to the OP's request). 3. Why you think that word is the best choice for the situation. This will increase the quality of your answer and make it more informative, so that it is not just a word thrown into the fray. – Yavor Voynov Jul 24 '17 at 8:55
  • We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Please explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed. – NVZ Jul 24 '17 at 16:32
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fallacy

a deceptive, misleading, or false notion, belief, etc.: That the world is flat was at one time a popular fallacy.


a misleading or unsound argument.


deceptive, misleading, or false nature; erroneousness.


any of various types of erroneous reasoning that render arguments logically unsound.


This is taken from: dicionary.com

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I think the word you might be looking for is an axiom or axiomatic.

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