My Peruvian friend informed me that a lemon is called "lima" in Peru while a lime is called "limón". This contrasts with some other Spanish dialects that use the word "limón" for lemon and "lima" for lime. Is there a word for this phenomenon? Additionally, what are some examples in English?

When the two words are from the same dialect, then what I'm describing is a pair of homonyms that have the same definitions—or more accurately, a pair of homonyms that have at least 2 definitions in common—but I don't know if this phenomenon is prevalent/important enough to have a word for it.

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    I don't know if there's a specific name for it, but these are examples of faux amis, where two lookalike words in two different languages/dialects sound similar. Aug 2 '18 at 17:29
  • @WavesWashSands, I would vote up your comment, but unfortunately I don't have that privilege. I've never heard of "faux amis", so thank you for teaching me that term. Aug 2 '18 at 18:03

I don't believe there is a specific term for this, but it could be described as a cognate mutual pair of cognate false friends (since both lima and limón derive from Arabic لَيْمُون‎ (laymūn, “lemon, lime”)).

This question on ELU has a number of British/American English examples, but none that come in mutual pairs unfortunately.

These wikipedia pages offer a more complete list:

A partial example that comes to mind is Asian/Oriental:

  • Asian
    • Br. En. From the Indian subcontinent
    • Am. En. From East Asia
  • Oriental
    • Br. En. From East Asia
    • Am. En. From Asia
  • Thanks for the pseudo-examples and etymology of "lima" and "limón"! The "Asian/Oriental" example is great; but as an American, I think of "Oriental" as meaning "from East Asia". I almost never use the term though since some find it offensive. Aug 2 '18 at 20:36

In the U.S., lemons and limes are similar, except limes tend to be smaller. The -on at the end of "lemon" appears to be an augmentative form, so it might mean "big lime". For the term "augmentative", see Spanish diminutive and augmentative terminations, which gives an example "una mujer - woman ---> un mujerón: a big, strong woman".

I'm not claiming anything about the actual etymologies, but just pointing out that it makes some sense to call a lemon a big lime. Also, I've seen some rather large fruits called "lima" in Brazil, so I think there may be some confusion about what to call these similar fruits.

I doubt there is anything general or interesting going on here.

  • Does not answer the question, which is about terminology. Aug 4 '18 at 0:14

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