What is the term for a word/name that describes the function?

One example is dishwasher, which is a machine that does exactly what the name suggests- it washes dishes.

  • 2
    The antonyms for 'misnomer' I've found ('apt name' / 'fitting name' / 'appropriate name' ...) are not single words. 'The aptly named dishwasher'. One could use irony: 'The imaginatively named dishwasher'. May 3, 2023 at 14:33
  • There's also garbage compactor, a similar Object-Verb compound, though usually spelled with a space. It's defined as 'a machine that turns 50 pounds of garbage into 50 pounds of garbage". Of course, pony ride and snake bite are also noun compounds that describe the function, but it's a different function each time - pony is the Object of ride but snake is the Subject of bite. May 3, 2023 at 15:15
  • Agent nouns? Or are you talking about a broader category of nouns?
    – Laurel
    May 3, 2023 at 16:06
  • The topic is machine names.
    – Lambie
    May 3, 2023 at 16:10
  • I genuinely can't think of such a term in common English usage. The other commenter's "aptly named" is about as close as I think you'll come -- a descriptive adjective rather than a noun.
    – Stephen R
    May 3, 2023 at 17:59

2 Answers 2


An autological word describes itself or is self-refential. "Noun" is a noun, for example. Homological is another term. Visible can be seen here and it is polysyllabic. Writing is writing*.

*Mileage may vary (argument for cursive).

  • "Dishwasher" isn't a dishwasher, though.
    – user888379
    Jun 3, 2023 at 20:37
  • @user888379 - clarify. As far as I'm aware, a dishwasher is indeed... a dishwasher. Jun 4, 2023 at 21:11
  • What are the extra lines for? Is it something clever that I'm missing? Jun 4, 2023 at 21:12
  • @Heartspring The word "dishwasher" isn't itself used to wash dishes.
    – user888379
    Jun 5, 2023 at 11:46

The nearest general term I can suggest is descriptor

a word or phrase used to describe or refer to something

It is a word that has come into use since about 1960 (according to the google ngram usage graph).

Hence, "dishwasher" is the descriptor of a machine that washes dishes. I cannot think of a descriptor that does not describe the function of the thing it refers to; if it did not describe the thing it would not be a descriptor. Therefore I suggest the word may suit your purpose.

  • I think he's looking for something more specific, where the descriptor is formed by turning a descriptive phrase into a word.
    – Barmar
    May 3, 2023 at 22:48
  • @Barmar Perhaps, which is why I refer to the “nearest general term”; it may suffice but it may not. Let’s hope that the community contributes something better.
    – Anton
    May 4, 2023 at 6:39

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