"The copies of texts transcribed by the monks were usually XXX because of inevitable human error."

"Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were XXX of the ones she saw in fashion magazines."

"The unicode characters '05AD' and '0596' are XXX"

EDIT - for further context, which should have been added by the poster, the unicode characters '05AD' and '0596' are two near-identical characters from the Hebrew alphabet. A less demanding example might have been "em dash" and "en dash", or a lowercase L ("l") and the numeral for one ("1").

  • 2
    similar, why not?
    – NVZ
    Aug 1, 2016 at 14:52
  • 6
    What words have you considered already and why didn't they fit?
    – NVZ
    Aug 1, 2016 at 14:53
  • 2
    They were (only) close approximations.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 2, 2016 at 4:00
  • 1
    I would suggest doppelgänger, but it doesn't quite fit all of the contexts you have provided. Aug 2, 2016 at 11:13
  • 3
    Why do you have to use one word in all these cases at all? Especially example with nearly identical characters: it would sound awkward or convey the wrong meaning with pretty much any word that was suggested in the answers that try to force one word in all the examples. Aug 3, 2016 at 5:48

14 Answers 14

  • Simulacrum - "a slight, unreal, or superficial likeness or semblance."
  • 16
    It's worth noting that while this is a great word that fits your request well, it is not at all a common word. I am a native English speaker with a relatively broad vocabulary, and this is the first time I've come across this particular word.
    – Kevin
    Aug 1, 2016 at 21:40
  • 4
    @KevinWells It's a well-known word in some social circles, but I definitely agree that the general population would have to Google it if they couldn't understand it from context.
    – phyrfox
    Aug 2, 2016 at 3:41
  • 3
    In art and media analysis this is pretty common, so people with degrees in those fields would likely know it. But not so much in general conversation. Aug 2, 2016 at 10:05
  • 2
    Many people (myself included) were introduced to this word via World of Warcraft. Death knights have or had an ability called "dark simulacrum" that would copy a spell.
    – Entbark
    Aug 2, 2016 at 15:52
  • 1
    While I play WoW, I didn't know the word from there (I have a level 100 DK, but don't play it much), I know it from Science Fiction.
    – McKay
    Aug 2, 2016 at 16:00

Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were "replicas"/"rough imitations"/"crude copies" of the ones she saw in fashion magazines.

  • replica - "any close copy or reproduction."

  • rough - "executed or ventured hastily, tentatively, or imperfectly"

  • crude - "not carefully or skillfully made; rough: a quick, crude sketch."

  • 2
    I don't think these work for the original intention, especially as illustrated by the 05AD to 0596 and em-dash to en-dash example: the objects being described don't have any relationship to each other beyond appearing to be similar. There is no "original" or "copy" in those cases.
    – justin
    Aug 2, 2016 at 3:57

There are differences of nuance between your examples, and I'm not sure there's a single word that covers all cases equally well.

"The copies of texts transcribed by the monks were usually word because of inevitable human error."

In this case, they tried to make them the same, but error crept in, so I would say they are imperfect copies. This implies that there are detectable differences, and it is those differences that matter.

"Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were word of the ones she saw in fashion magazines."

Here we want to get across that the outfits are an attempt to copy the originals but with less investment of time, effort or expense, and lack authenticity. So, I would say they are imitations. This carries both senses of "a result or product of imitating" and "a counterfeit; copy".

"The unicode characters '05AD' and '0596' are word"

In this case, they are logically different, but with similar appearance, so I would say they are deceptively similar. Here, the logical difference is what is important, and the similarity causes confusion.

  • +1 for saying that there is no one word that will fit all the examples. As for the outfits, "knock-offs" (impolite) or "copies" (polite) would be better than "imitations".
    – ab2
    Aug 5, 2016 at 22:57
  • lookalikes
  • facsimile
  • clones

Your first examples are derivative works, inferior copies, but en-dash and em-dash are not accidentally different, there is not an original-vs-copy relationship there.

  • 2
    Welcome to ELU. Please provide sources for your answer. Have a look at the help center to find out about good answers.
    – Helmar
    Aug 1, 2016 at 22:01

Ersatz - "made or used as a substitute, typically inferior to the thing copied"

Doesn't really work for any of your examples but the first one as phrased, but I think it might serve your purposes in some cases.

In response to the first comment: the definition I originally provided was simply from memory. Here is the Oxford Online definition:

1 (Of a product) made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else: 'ersatz coffee'

  • 2
    Please identify the source of your definition, if it comes from a particular dictionary.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 2, 2016 at 0:03
  • Its from german and means just about "replacement" not very fitting in my opinion Aug 3, 2016 at 5:22
  • Is that an ersatz Jim Wiggs that edited the answer? ;-) Aug 3, 2016 at 5:58
  • +1 Thanks for following up on the citation request. I've added a bit of formatting to make the quoted language stand out more clearly.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 5, 2016 at 16:31

If you want to emphasize the likeness, then you might say dead ringer:

a person or thing that closely resembles another

If, however, you want to emphasize the abberance, then you might say a knock off:

A copy or close imitation

In the context of your original phrasings, we have:

  • "The copies of texts transcribed by the monks were usually knock offs because of inevitable human error."
  • "Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were knock offs of the ones she saw in fashion magazines."
  • "The unicode characters '05AD' and '0596' are dead ringers."
  • 1
    I think those work for the 2nd and 3rd bullets, but not for the 1st. "Knock off" has the connotation that the copies are somehow fake, or in some way far inferior to the original.
    – LarsH
    Aug 2, 2016 at 11:20
  • 'Knock off' and 'dead ringer' are both slang - 'knock off' implies a fake e.g a 'knock off' of a Dior handbag, Nike running shoes etc. 'Dead ringer' is almost always reserved for people e.g 'My dad is a dead ringer for Elvis'. I can't remember seeing it ever used to describe a non-person.
    – Steve Ives
    Aug 2, 2016 at 12:14
  • 1
    I think the 1st example would be better served with the word 'flawed'. the 2nd example by the word 'copy'.
    – Steve Ives
    Aug 2, 2016 at 12:17

Considering all of your example phrases, I think the best choice would be “approximate.”

almost correct or exact : close in value or amount but not precise

Unlike some other words I initially tried (“undifferentiated”, “indistinguishable”), “approximate” doesn't seem to have as much connotation — positive or negative — inherent to the word itself.

Used in context of the examples:

The unicode characters 05AD ( ֭) and 0596 ( ֖) are approximate.

The copies of texts transcribed by the monks were approximate because of inevitable human error.

Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were approximate to the ones she saw in fashion magazines.

Taking it a step further

Additionally, you could shift the connotation or play/tighten up the ambiguity in the example sentences by changing small things. For example:

Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were only approximate to the ones she saw in fashion magazines.


Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were only, though quite, approximate to the ones she saw in fashion magazines.

Anyway, this answer is long enough. I think "approximate" works for your intended uses and provides a great deal of flexibility.

  • perhaps 'Approximations' would fit better? Aug 2, 2016 at 10:39
  • +1 I didn't think there was a single word, but there it is.
    – DCShannon
    Aug 3, 2016 at 2:08
  • This doesn't make sense in the first (in your post) example at all. What is it even supposed to mean? Unicode characters aren't and can't be approximate. Aug 3, 2016 at 5:08
  • @AlexanderRevo you could always just add the qualifier "visually" if you feel the need to be pedantic
    – justin
    Aug 3, 2016 at 5:11
  • @justin "indistinguishable" would be a much better choice for this particular example; "visually approximate", well, that's just trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It is a good word choice for other examples in question though. Aug 3, 2016 at 5:39

There are some good words suggested here, but I think for the specific case you describe, I would go with "less than accurate", or in single-word form, inaccurate. Though it spans multiple words, I think the phrase "less than accurate" is superior because it implies that it is close, but not quite right.




artificial or imitation.

Use in a sentence:

Jimmy Fallon put his SNL skills to use while impersonating Weiner in a faux press conference.

Source: dictionary.com


resembles or "only resembles"

The example sentences have different structures so there is no one solution for them all, but I think they could all be reformed to use forms of resemble with very good fidelity to the intent.

to be like or similar to; to possess some similarity to;


degraded seems to cover your word.

reduced in quality or value; debased; vulgarized: the degraded level of the modern novel.

Original source: Random House Unabridged Dictionary.

  • That more implies they used to be of good quality, but over time became worse, e.g. degraded. Aug 2, 2016 at 10:40

A counterfeit :D

a fraudulent imitation of something else.

Source: Oxford Dictionaries.

  • 1
    Welcome to ELU. Please provide a link to the source of your quote. Have a look at the help center to find out about good answers.
    – Helmar
    Aug 2, 2016 at 21:48
  • 1
    I have added a citation (and a link) to the source of the quoted language in your answer. Please provide similar reference information in your future questions and answers at English Language & Usage.
    – Sven Yargs
    Aug 2, 2016 at 22:24
  • 1
    An identical copy would be just as counterfeit. But if I build one shelf, and then create an almost identical copy of that shelf, that is obviously not counterfeit. You are basically claiming all Gutenberg bibles are counterfeit.
    – gnasher729
    Aug 2, 2016 at 23:38

I think that you’d explain the concept better accosting two words. For example lookalike replica. The word replica implies that the object is derived and shares most details with the original, the word lookalike would explain that the replica looks like the original, implying that it is not the same (otherwise the use of lookalike, a word that isn’t very common, wouldn’t be necessary).

If forced to use just one word, I would use lookalike (as stated previously by several people) or possibly use simile, which is actually the name of a figure of speech but that I think conveys the idea rather effectively (also it’s effective because it evokes the idea of something similar but the use of that word instead of the more common versions conveys meaning just like lookalike).

In general however I would aim to find different words to use in each situation according to the context, the intent of the person creating the replica in question and what you aim to transmit. You could describe much more with two words than just an adjective.

For example:

  • An honest error while copying could be an incorrect copy.
  • An ineffective tool similar to another would be a faulty replica.

In the examples you presented I would use:

The copies of texts transcribed by the monks were usually faulty because of inevitable human error.

Because faulty describes not the copies as a substantive but the action of copying so actually I’m using the adjective creatively by playing on that. Otherwise I would use tainted because usually in philology you consider the trickle of the copies from a source to what we have now (see Q source named after Quelle which literally means water source in German). Now that I think about it, imprecise also nails it quite nicely and by Occam’s razor could be the best choice.

Her lack of resources meant that her outfits were rip-offs of the ones she saw in fashion magazines.

Because the subject here is trying to copy, but I think the tone intended is derogatory (which is transmitted to me by the base idea that the copies contain errors). Also the word is often used in regards to design and outfits. In the opposite case I would be fine using copies/imitations or even just inspired/closely inspired if we want to express a certain legitimacy and appreciation in her action of copying the designs she observed (relying on the first part of the phrase to make the reader understand that her intention was to get a copy but she couldn’t to the original and not a novel creation).

The unicode characters '05AD' and '0596' are similar.

In this case similar works just fine. Other options could be confusable (maybe it’s me, but it sounds terrible) or easily confused or even easy to exchange by error. Of course the latter two are most effective if you’re speaking about the risk of committing errors due to their similarity. Similar here is the neutral choice, but the context is useful for picking the right word.

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Reading this post i just have realized how and why they say that Greek is the mother of all languages and the only one that computers can understand. So if one uses in Greek the prefix apo=from and mimisis=copy / made duplicate then one has the answer. APOMIMISIS = exact copy of something (could be used from gestures to acting or even for any material or design). It means actually intentional near exact copy but not original (mimic from).

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