Suppose someone has encountered the word "transfixed" on several occasions, never looked up the word in a dictionary, and concluded from the encounters that the word means "engrossed".

They have unwittingly misled themself as to the meaning of the word, and not been misled by anyone else. So, now, they say things such as "the students were transfixed in the notes".

  • Acquisition :) But no, there probably is a term for this specific type of error, which obviously drives much semantic change. I'm curious. Aug 8, 2021 at 4:03
  • It’s a kind of imperfect learning, but I don’t know of a more specific term.
    – Keelan
    Aug 8, 2021 at 11:05

1 Answer 1


It's a form of self-deception. The only word I can think of is misdefining: to incorrectly identify or set forth the meaning of (something, such as a word) : to define wrongly.

It's such a unused word it gets tagged as misspelled.

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