There are many words that are often used in place of other words, that are not actually synonymous.


  • Disinterested & Uninterested
  • Ask(ed) & Axe(d)
  • Literally & Figuratively*

Sometimes this is because the words are similar, sometimes it's born out of hyperbole or irony (eg good & bad), sometimes their are totally obscure reasons this happens. Regardless, it is common enough that I would expect it to have a term. Unfortunately trying to google for such a term, because of the way the keywords are used, returns Interminable** results with nothing pertinent within a reasonable depth.

For the record, if an appropriate term does not already exist, I'd like to coin the term pseudosynonym.

*yes, I know technically this is resolved by adding the informal definition to the dictionary.

**yes, I see what I did there, no it was not intentional.

1 Answer 1


These words can be considered false cognates:

They are called false cognates because they sound or are written so similarly that they are often confused.

That page even lists disinterested/uninterested and literally/figuratively.

(Note that while the term typically refers to two words in different languages, it is also used with two words within the same language.)

  • This is perfect! I was even considering adding the foreign language concept to my example, but thought it was already complicated enough. Thank you!
    – trex005
    Nov 2, 2016 at 4:04

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