What is it called when something is described as something but the something is in fact anything but that something?

For example :

  • a strong man who calls himself a weakling
  • a purple man who calls himself a red man

Contradictory or opposite comes to mind but that is not what I am looking for.

Its a bit like politicians say they represent the people when (in some ways) they don't.

Or another example might be the Republican Party in the US. The word republican probably had a certain meaning when it first started but now it probably has an opposite meaning (and probably many other meanings). The word that has evolved over time to possibly mean something else.

I hope that explains it, but maybe some comments/questions might help me clarify it further.

  • this might be what I am looking for.
    – HattrickNZ
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 2:06
  • I don't understand what you mean by citing "Republican" as an example, to me a republic refers to an independent state and government without a monarchy, and a republican is either someone who resides in a republic, belongs to a republic party, or upholds the values of his or her government.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 10:06
  • What meaning did Republican use to have, that it no longer has?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 10:08
  • @Mari-LouA By republic, I was more referring to political party names that possibly meant something in the past, when they were set up a long time ago. But now after a long time and through many changes the party has morphed into something completely different. Hope that makes sense.
    – HattrickNZ
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 19:58
  • Names of political parties are a very bad example of what you seem to be searching for. And something completely opposite from the truth is a lie. I guess it is not by chance that Republican Party and that are associated in your mind. At this point, many of its politicians are outright liars.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 11, 2020 at 16:36

2 Answers 2


Perhaps you're looking for "misnomer"?

This would apply to your example of the "Republican" party, at least, where a name that used to be descriptive no longer is.

It could apply to the other examples, as well, although those are more about the act of lying than about a misleading term.

  • tks, that's is definitely a possible answer. Although that more addresses the opposite or false meaning part of the word. I was also looking for something that addresses the transformation of the meaning of that word over time.
    – HattrickNZ
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 20:00
  • The Wiki page I linked offers "anachronym" as a possible term for that, although it hasn't exactly entered standard usage.
    – clfm
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 20:05
  • Tks that is it, or will do. <br>Anachronisms, terms being applied to things that belong to another time, especially much later.
    – HattrickNZ
    Commented Feb 8, 2018 at 22:31

Irony. Calling a fat man slim or a tall man shorty. When the application of a word or concept is in direct opposition to its meaning.

  • Red is in direct opposition to purple?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jan 12, 2020 at 8:16

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