When somebody makes a statement with the intention of professing one truth but unintentionally speaks another, which may or may not correspond to the first truth, what do we call that?

For example, someone says, "incredible things are possible when you dare to be you," with the intention of conveying that you'll be happier and more alive when you focus on becoming more of yourself. But this statement can also be looked at in an opposite light, where incredibly bad things are possible when you dare to be you, when you dare to focus on yourself too much. i.e. pride and conceit can eat at you or destroy your reputation or face you with an incredibly unattainable image, presenting you with nothing but grief and a sense of failure.

With the original statement one meaning is intended but another counterproductive meaning can be unintentionally expressed by it.

I don't like the phrase "unintended consequence" because "consequence" most often denotes an undesired result of. I'm looking to communicate that the "consequential" result is actually the truthier meaning, or at the very least a second, unintended meaning, without it actually being a consequence, but more of a true meaning that has escaped via a fallacy.

Similar to a Freudian slip, minus it being an error or a mistake when spoken, and it's true meaning often obscured from the speaker.

  • Can you make an example please, what you are asking is not clear.
    – user66974
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 9:09
  • @Josh61 edited with an example Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 9:34
  • 1
    There is a saying Many a true word spoken in jest. But that is usually said after someone, employing an element of the ridiculous, has made a witty remark.
    – WS2
    Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 9:54
  • There has to be some word for this, I feel like I've known it before. Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 9:55
  • You may be thinking of the phrase 'unintended consequences' ---> google.co.uk/?gws_rd=ssl#q=unintended+consequences Commented Sep 19, 2015 at 10:16

2 Answers 2


I'm not sure about a single word that fits the bill, but I feel like "inadvertently accurate" is a description I've seen before with regards to a phrase that is more true (or true in a different way) than the speaker intended. You could rotate through the synonyms and find other phrases that I've seen used before.

For example, "Unwittingly correct" might also work, although I can't be sure I've seen that used before. I could also see myself saying someone was "accidentally right" about something.

A narrator might say "Truer words were never spoken" to invoke a more critical thought to the given phrase, perhaps revealing a second meaning if the audience had the proper context or awareness.

  • "truer words were never spoken" did it for me. Thanks! Commented Oct 4, 2015 at 7:55

You seem to be asking about a form of 'adianoeta', but adianoeta is usually understood to be intentional (whether or not it is)--that is, the second, unintended meaning expressed is usually understood to have been expressed intentionally. If that second meaning is inadvertent, I suppose 'adianoeta' could be modified with 'unintended', 'accidental' or something that conveys the "unintended" aspect.

Adianoeta is a form of ambiguity, irony, hidden meaning and double entendre.

A famous example of 'adianoeta' is this response to an aspiring novelist who has sent you their new manuscript:

I wasted no time reading your new novel, and enjoyed it very much.

More examples are available at, among many other places, http://grammar.about.com/od/ab/g/Adianoeta.htm.

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