I was doing research into the use of axes in Japanese martial arts. I discovered that the common name for this tool os "ono." I then discovered that is has another name, "masa-kari."

If I were to mispronounce this word in English, it would be very close to sounding like massacre.

So I looked up the etymology for massacre. It seems to come from French, and they seem to have gotten it from Latin (around the 1500's).

1575-85; (noun) < Middle French massacre, noun derivative of massacrer, Old French maçacrer, macecler, probably < Vulgar Latin *matteūcculāre, verbal derivative of *matteūca mallet (see mashie, mace1); (v.) < Middle French massacrer

There appears to be no link between massacre and masa-kari. Though I would expect one. Why?

Because of the similarities between maces and axes.

I can accept they are not related etymologically. What I am curious about is, are there words that appear in multiple languages, that appear related, but have no connection to each other?

Is there a term for this phenomena? Yes, I get statistics, and random chance. I'm not asserting magic, or divine intervention. I'm trying to asses this using scientific method.

If anything I have stated is inaccurate, I apologize please correct me. I am no expert in this field, and I do not claim any expertise.

  • 2
    It's usually called chance similarity. Campbell mentioned that "5-6 percent of the vocabulary of any two compared languages may be accidentally similar." Ringe 1992 discussed it in more detail, On Calculating the Factor of Chance in Language Comparison.
    – Alex B.
    Apr 1, 2016 at 15:11
  • 1
    Thank you. I didn't know if there was a magical term, like homonym means to words spelled the same, but different meanings and pronunciations (sometimes).
    – Everett
    Apr 1, 2016 at 15:19
  • 1
    "False friend {of a translator}" also seems to be related Apr 1, 2016 at 16:09
  • I think what I am asking about appears to have more in common with "false cognates." If that's true, it's likely the "term" I was after.
    – Everett
    Apr 1, 2016 at 17:24
  • 1
    Yes false cognate is the correct term. 'False friend' has a somewhat different meaning. Apr 1, 2016 at 23:17

1 Answer 1


Just wanted to clarify things.

False cognates are words that exhibit chance similarity (or chance resemblance).

The phenomenon is known as chance similarity, or chance resemblance. Words exhibiting this phenomenon are known as false cognates.

Trask 2000:

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  • 1
    Since you found the docs to support it, you get the points. Thank you.
    – Everett
    Apr 2, 2016 at 3:54
  • Not related in any way? Devoid of interest? List those probabilities...
    – amI
    May 3, 2017 at 23:14

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