Origin: 1425–75;late Middle English < Anglo-French, noun use of Middle Frenchmesnomer ‘to misname’, equivalent to mes-mis-1 + nomer < Latinnōmināre; see nominate
Can be confused: misnomer, mistake (see confusables note at the current entry).
Confusables note Misnomer is not a fancy, more elevated word for mistake. Nor is it a synonym for misstatement, misconception, or misunderstanding. As the word's Latin etymon nōmināre (‘to name’) tells us, a misnomer is a special kind of mistake: a wrong name. The consequences of a mistake can range from trivial to catastrophic—from typos to train wrecks. But a misnomer is often just embarrassing, like trying to impress a friend by referrring to a Burgundy wine as a “Bordeaux.” Sometimes, however, what began as a misnomer has become a standard term: the game of Chinese checkers does not come from China; the funny bone is a nerve, not a bone; hay fever is not caused by hay and is not a fever; and a pregnant woman's morning sickness can occur at any time of day. Other kinds of mistakes or misunderstandings—giving a driver wrong directions, thinking that the earth is flat, drawing an erroneous conclusion—are not misnomers. In fact, the word misnomer when used to describe a behavioral mistake or a misperception of reality is itself a misnomer!