I'm looking for examples of dramatic typos - where a minor edit can dramatically change the meaning of a phrase, and would like to know if there's a name for this phenomenon.

Paronyms are a similar concept, but seems to incorporate pronunciation - "love" and "loathe" might be paronyms but they're not especially similar in spelling.

For example, "symptomatic" and "asymptomatic" are one letter apart but have opposite meaning, "heroin" and "heroine" have very different meanings.

By edit distance, I mean the similarity of the two words - the number of single-letter additions or substitutions to turn one into the other.

  • 1
    "Is there a term?" questions are OK, but "Can you think of any more examples?" is not as it produces a list question which are not suitable for the SE format.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 27, 2023 at 9:20
  • 3
    Thanks, I've edited the question to remove that bit.
    – Rhys Mills
    Oct 27, 2023 at 9:21
  • @Greybeard No, it's a request for a term of art which can be used by the OP to find words. Answers and comments which provide words will be removed.
    – Andrew Leach
    Oct 27, 2023 at 9:49
  • Also. You talk about antonyms in the title, but then mention "heroin" and "heroine" which aren't antonyms. So what do you want? A word for similar antonyms, or just words with different meanings that are spelt similarly? The latter are paronyms.
    – Stuart F
    Oct 27, 2023 at 11:03
  • Incidentally, "heroin" was so named because it makes its users feel like heros, so the etymological connection is, in fact, present. (Its official name is "diamorphine hydrochloride", which is rather less marketable).
    – Tevildo
    Oct 27, 2023 at 14:53

1 Answer 1



An error in typing or printing, especially one caused by striking an incorrect key on a keyboard. The term typo is short for typographical (error). An atomic typo is a typographical error (usually involving a single letter) that results in a word different from the one intended—prostate instead of prostrate, for example. Spellcheckers are unable to detect atomic typos.

And the worst typo ever? Probably The Times's write-up of the opening of Waterloo Bridge by the Prince Regent on 18 June 1817, when, due to a stray vowel, the report claimed that 'The Royal party then pissed over the bridge.' The entire composing-room staff was (reportedly) sacked next day." (John Walsh, "btw." The Independent, July 26, 2008)

  • Apparently, one early English Bible printing had 'I am surrounded by a band of angry printers'. [princes] Oct 27, 2023 at 16:59
  • How about a several-million dollar RFB for commercial prick up trucks (in one-inch high type on orange construction paper)!!! USAF 1986.
    – Phil Sweet
    Oct 27, 2023 at 18:29
  • The user manual for a keyboard from an internationally famous musical instrument company [that I worked for at the time] once referred to the data drive throughout the manual as the Floppy Dick Drive.
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 28, 2023 at 7:38
  • … or, town hall - "Recently, politicians have been seeing a shit to the left."
    – Tetsujin
    Oct 28, 2023 at 7:41

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