I am trying to describe someone's reactions in a situation. At first I used the word overreact, but then I realized it is not only the person's overreaction but also other kinds of inappropriate or unexpected reactions. Then I came across "misreact" which seems to be the right word, except that I am not sure if it is a real word.

  • 1
    Can you give any reason why it wouldn't be a legitimate application of the prefix "mis-" to the verb "react"?
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 13, 2018 at 0:58
  • Reactions can be exaggerated or even inappropriate, but can they really be said to be wrong per se in the sense the prefix mis- would suggest?
    – Lawrence
    Aug 13, 2018 at 1:03
  • @Lawrence - How about steering left into the front of the oncoming cement truck rather than right to avoid it?
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 13, 2018 at 1:14
  • @HotLicks Assuming it was caused by a lifetime of driving on the left side of the road, I can see where you're coming from. Still, the impulse itself would just be a reaction; it might be labeled an unfortunate reaction. Compare: behave/misbehave, align/misalign - there's a sense that something is wrong or even just incorrect. But an almost instinctual impulse - it just is, isn't it? One can describe the aftermath as good or bad, happy or sad, etc, but it doesn't seem appropriate to describe the reaction itself that way.
    – Lawrence
    Aug 13, 2018 at 1:24
  • @Lawrence - I don't understand what you think is the difference between a "misreaction" and an "inappropriate reaction", in an extreme case.
    – Hot Licks
    Aug 13, 2018 at 1:37

2 Answers 2


You are correct, you can use word misreact.

You won't find it in standard dictionaries like Merriam-Webster or Oxford. But you can certainly use it to convey the meaning "react in the wrong way".

The prefix mis- conveys that something is wrong. From the Oxford Dictionary:

mis- (prefix)
1. (added to verbs and their derivatives) wrongly. misapply
1.1 Badly. mismanage
1.2. Unsuitably. misname

A few references for misreact:

  1. Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises: A Casebook, by Linda Wagner-Martin, ed.

    enter image description here

  2. The Paranoia Switch: How Terror Rewires Our Brains and Reshapes Our Behavior by Martha Stout.

    enter image description here

  • Those dictionaries do not contain every word. Also, your answer is confusing: you call it (a) word then you say it is not. Then you give examples of it. So is it a word that you have found in those examples or what? Aug 13, 2018 at 7:01
  • @Knotell No, I haven't said that it is a word, I have explicitly stated it on the top. I said: "you can use word misreact." because of prefix mis-*. You can add this prefix to word "react". Secondly, yes, every word is not defined in those 2 dictionaries, but at the same time, words can be formed for usage.
    – Ubi.B
    Aug 13, 2018 at 7:05
  • 1
    Your answer currently says: (1) "You are correct, you can use word misreact", which means you are calling it a word; (2) "But misreact by itself is not a word." This is stating opposite things. I have no idea what your comment means; you should think how to write what you mean in a more clear manner. Aug 13, 2018 at 7:09
  • 1
    That's much better! Aug 13, 2018 at 7:13
  • 1
    An excellent answer. I like the confidence to state the real linguistic situation despite an absence of dictionary support. Up-voted.
    – Nigel J
    Aug 13, 2018 at 9:04

If you are looking for a word with an actual dictionary definition (although I'm not certain that misreact is inappropriate), the closest in form and meaning I can think of is miscue:


intransitive verb

: to make a miscue



the slightest miscue could make the trapeze artist lose his grip and fall to the mat below

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.