I may have too broad or subjective of a definition here, so I will try to end with a more specific definition/example -- but if there is a word similar to the definition listed at the end, that may be the right word even if I am off on the definition.

Perhaps that mess is appropriate for how frustrating it is to verbalize this: is there a word/category for words that are uncannily similar?

The very vague and overly subjective description would be "words that are a little too similar." Googling got me as far as uncanny. It feels like a hard thing to Google, which is admittedly as fitting as it is frustrating.

Example of what a definition might look like if there is an objective term rather than a subjective one: Igneous and Ingenious

  1. Same number of syllables
  2. Multiple syllables exhibit similar sounds whether it is a rhyme, off rhyme, assonance, alliteration, etc.
  3. The words share a high number of letters in a similar or identical order
  4. (This probably goes too specific to be useful enough to exist) The words could syntactially be said together, but are very unlikely to make semantic sense

Sample sentence: I am literally looking for a word to classify other words, so the best I can do here is "igneous" and "ingenious" for a sample pair.

Thesaurus: uncanny is as good as I could do

Why it doesn't work: I'm trying to figure out if there is a specific word to classify sets of words

Criteria: similarity in function to the word oxymoron, but for words that bear a striking or uncanny similarity.

Whether a compound word or phrase would be acceptable: yes. But a single word would be a much more fun answer, don't you think?

  • What do you mean by uncanny?
    – Xanne
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 7:35
  • 2
    Will peradventure this word be the sword to penfully chronicle the painful adventures that befell that terribly ancient crone, the Avenger super-héroïne Witch-Lady Cronical, before being felled by the super-villain’s super-heroin's carnivorous coronavirus which so disrespected her super-unfair ability to distinguish such confusible confusables as the flammable from the inflammable and deëxtingish them both according to their respective super-inferribilities which so often made her not only the facile vessel of felicitations but also the vacillating vassal of facilitations?
    – tchrist
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 12:54
  • @tchrist This is very strange. My edition has Witch-Lady Crone-ical and inflambeable
    – DjinTonic
    Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 13:02
  • I've also seen the term 'confusables' used. Probably here on ELU. Commented Oct 24, 2021 at 14:55
  • 1
    @tchrist I don't have anything to say except I love your comment.
    – ramblinjan
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 2:25

1 Answer 1


As a caveat, I am not a linguist. However, paronym seems an uncannily close fit.

Paronyms are words that are pronounced or written in a similar way but which have different lexical meanings.

  • Fantastic. Thank you.
    – ramblinjan
    Commented Oct 25, 2021 at 6:36

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