In Arabic, کونی is the imperative second person feminine of "be". But the same word in Persian means a faggot (slang).

The one who found the heleocentrism is called Copernicus, bet the last part is dropped in Persian (only Copernic) because its pronunciation means female genetalia.

You got the idea. Countless examples exist of words with normal meaning in one language, that have a bad meaning with that pronunciation on another language.

Is there a technical term for this phenomenon?

  • 1
    French 'phoque', Swedish 'fart', Japanese 'Laputa, Castle in the Sky' also come to mind... Feb 9, 2023 at 16:17
  • No, not as far as I know there isn't.
    – Lambie
    Feb 9, 2023 at 16:57
  • @Luke Not to mention inhabitants of Middelfart. Feb 10, 2023 at 12:07

2 Answers 2


If I understand you correctly, you are after a term which might be used to designate a false cognate of the type where only the sound—not the meaning—is the same, and where the meaning in one of the two languages is somehow undesirable or offensive.

This is very specific, and I doubt that such a word exists. I say this because having dealt with false friends and false cognates in multiple language pairs over the decades, I have a feeling I would have encountered this term at one moment or another if it was in at least somewhat common use.

Of course, this doesn’t exclude anything, but my answer is that it is quite unlikely that a term like this exists, or if it does, it must be very rare.

Since you mention Copernicus, I wonder if it isn’t more reasonable to assume that he is called Copernic in Persian simply because his actual name was Mikołaj Kopernik, or perhaps because the name entered the language through French —
    Nicolas Copernic : نیکلاس کوپرنیک

  • Thank you. Thus I should make a term for this phenomenon myself. The reason is that Persian has borrowed heavily from Arabic, French and English and we encounter this problem a lot. Feb 10, 2023 at 0:34
  • It is quite specific, yes. But outside of linguistics and classrooms, when people in general talk about false friends, it’s also very often exactly this type that they are talking about. It’s not very conversation-worthy that language A’s word for ‘hairdryer’ means ‘to submit an application’ in language B – it’s much more interesting and likely to be talked about when a word that means ‘beautiful girl’ in language A means ‘dog turd’ in language B. Feb 13, 2023 at 14:40
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet Agreed. I considered including this point in my answer, but since thinking about didn’t help me find the word being sought I decided to leave it out.
    – Segorian
    Feb 13, 2023 at 16:44

Your Question

Is there a technical term for a word (auditory sound or pronunciation) such that the word has a normal meaning in one language, and the word has a bad meaning in another language.

Your Question Re-worded for humane beings working in the sciences, technology, engineering and/or mathematics

Does there exist a technical term t such that all of the following hold:

  • There exists time t such that t is the time at which term t was invented and t proceeds the current time.

for any w element of the set of all words, w is an element of the set assosiated technical term t, there exist languages Langy and Lizzy such that there do not exist negative connotations for word w in language Langy and there exist negative connotations for word w in language Lizzy.


The English word "mist" means...


Or... in English we can have water, or "aqua", o "clear edible tastless odorless fluid", o "dihydrogen monoxide", o "mar muchas peguena de cristal".

The German word "mist" is best translated into the English words "crap" or "dog shit".


A Poor Attempt at an Answer, which I Hope Someone Else Will Improve Upon

Perhaps the Word "malapropism" Will Suffice.

we choose to define the word "malapropism" to be the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, sometimes humorous utterance.

Permhaps "a word with homophonetic hetrosignificance"

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