Take for instance the following, relatively uncommon terms:

  1. Froward [Forward]
  2. Obverse [Observe]
  3. Perquisite [Requisite/prerequisite]
  4. Effront [Affront]
  5. Ingenuous [Ingenious]
  6. Infarction [Infraction]

Is there a term which collectively refers to words that look misspelled but are in fact valid words which are not just alternative forms of the 'more common' words?

Clearly, the words appear normal to one who is accustomed to them. I'd hazard that only 'froward' and 'infarction' are words that, to some native English speakers who aren't well read, might appear as misspelled words. {Others, like apposite [opposite] are far more common, but appear to be incorrectly spelled to those only presently learning English.}

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    This is a fascinating question. I'm curious to see if anyone will be able to answer it. Jul 18, 2018 at 13:53
  • Do you reckon this is closer to what I'm asking? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metathesis_(linguistics) It doesn't exactly describe the kind of word in question however, for it isn't necessary that they are merely the result of sound/syllable transposition. Jul 18, 2018 at 14:34
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    @Kugelblitz Metathesis is not what you want. Metathesis is a swap in sound, but the meaning of the word stays the same. This is often considered a mistake, but if it becomes the standard it is just another sound change. The words you describe are spelled correctly, they just happen to be close in spelling to much more common words.
    – Mitch
    Jul 18, 2018 at 17:24
  • Fair enough, +1 Jul 19, 2018 at 0:27
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    @Fattie Here's the page where we can vote to keep it open.
    – Lawrence
    Jul 19, 2018 at 3:21

3 Answers 3


Oxford provides the following sense of confusable:


A word or phrase that is easily confused with another in meaning or usage, such as mitigate, which is often confused with militate.

It also provides a list of confusables at this webpage.

I would argue that it's not possible to include in the definition that it "appears to be a misspelling," because if you actually know both words that sense disappears.

Any single word that isn't known may appear to be misspelled on first sight—whether it's compared to another word or not.

For example, I know the word obverse and it does not appear to misspelled at all—because I know it isn't. Would that mean that, given some word for words that appear to be misspelled, that word would no longer qualify for anybody who knows they are correct?

So, the only objective description of these word pairs is that one looks similar to the other. (It may be true that if you don't know one of the pairs it also does appear to be a misspelling of the other.)

  • That's exactly what I had discussed with people I know - it seems like that words people know seem to clearly not appear to be misspellings to them. So in that list, for example, froward and infarction are probably the only words which would be seen as misspellings more than often not by a layperson who is a native English speaker. +1 I guess you are right in saying that this classification is inherently dependent on one's inurement with the words themselves, hence not being objective. Jul 18, 2018 at 15:54
  • Having thought about the question, JasonB, I believe what the OP is talking about is: "Little-used words which happen to look like mis-spellings of common words." Let's call those LUWWHTLLMSOCWs. I think that is different from "confusables". LUWWHTLLMSOCWs - I believe - are very simply, well, little-used words that happen to "be close in spelling" to well-known words, and otherwise have no relationship to them at all. For me, "confusables" (it is a great term) is like "effect" and "affect" or "principal" and "principle" .........
    – Fattie
    Jul 19, 2018 at 2:49
  • Note that, quite simply, confusables are NOT little known words - they are pairs of perfectly common words which (basically) "people are too dumb" :) to get right. in contrast, LUWWHTLLMSOCWs are - I believe - actually obscure, very arcane words. Hence "Froward" only one person in a million would even have heard of. It looks like a typo for Forward - but, surprise!, it's an obscure word that geeks use. Again, this is in contrast to "confusables" which are two (totally common) words which are easy to mix-up.
    – Fattie
    Jul 19, 2018 at 2:54
  • Perhaps one way to put it, would be to consider the set of LUWWHTLLMSOCWs as a strict subset of the set of confusables? Jul 19, 2018 at 3:37

It seems to me to be a "written spoonerism".

Or a "spoonerism spelling".

I've thought about what the OP is asking.

The OP is basically talking about:

Little-used words which happen to look like mis-spellings of common words.

The only phrase I can think of which encapsulates that idea is,

"A little-used word which happen to look like a mis-spelling of a common word."

Consider, "confusables" are:

A pair of words, both common, which have similar meanings, and which are easy to "mix up". Such as the pair principle/principal.

In contrast - I believe what the OP is asking - a "LUWWHTLLAMSOACW" is

A (single) obscure word, which, surprisingly, looks exactly like a simple typo for an everyday word. (No connection between the two.) Example Froward.

An interesting third similar category is things like "tenderhooks" - "mistaken" words caused by people mishearing the actual word (tenterhooks in the example).

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    Awesome. But this connotes that it is, in fact, misspelled right? Maybe a pseudo-spoonerism would be more apt.... Jul 18, 2018 at 14:29
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    +1 @Kugelblitz No, a spoonerism is not a misspelling. Although, I think the dictionary definition should be provided in the answer, and a bit more exposition given. Jul 18, 2018 at 15:37
  • Never said it is a misspelling. You are certainly right in that it isn't one. However, I thought that spoonerism implies that the result is an error (technically owing to sound/syllable transposition) - the word I want, however, is one that describes words which seem to be misspelled, but aren't. Jul 18, 2018 at 15:51
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    @Mitch Metastases across word boundaries are the cancer of proper diction. ;-) Jul 19, 2018 at 10:13
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    @JanusBahsJacquet That was an ingenuous malocclusion
    – Mitch
    Jul 19, 2018 at 13:21

A neologism, lest no word exists for this.

Pseudoheterography, from pseudo (false) + heterography (an incorrect spelling).

There are a lot of terms, (Elision, Epenthesis, Metathesis), but I suppose the above term would be the only one to encompass all of them in order to simply refer to a word that despite being valid, appears to be a misspelling.

I suppose even Pseudomisspelling would work, but I seem to prefer the former term - the latter term sounds vile...

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    +1 for coining pseudoheterography, and for noticing the category in the first place Jul 18, 2018 at 15:14
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    Pseudoheterography is confuscating.
    – Phil Sweet
    Jul 18, 2018 at 21:47
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    As an aside: if you wanted to be really pedantically Classicist and form the word according to Ancient Greek rules (as opposed to forming it as an English word from existing English building blocks), the result would be pseutheterography, which has the added benifit/disadvantage of being infinitely harder to parse and understand to an English speaker. Jul 19, 2018 at 9:39
  • @JanusBahsJacquet Could you explain how that comes about? Jul 19, 2018 at 10:56
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    @Kugelblitz Part of it is explained in this answer to another question. Greek ψευδός is a thematic noun (first/second declension) and as such has both a prevocalic and preconsonantal form. Initial h didn’t count as a consonant in Greek, so the prevocalic form pseud- would be used. What did happen, however, was that the /h/ would merge with a preceding consonant, resulting in the equivalent aspirated consonant, which could be either /rʰ tʰ pʰ kʰ/ (written rh, th, ph, ch in English). So pseud-he-pseuthe-. Jul 19, 2018 at 11:00

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