For example, I saw someone just now. I thought he was Jack, but turned out he was not. Or, I saw something and recognized it as something else incorrectly. Is there a word for such situations?

I know if I read something wrongly, I could say "I misread it". and if I hear something wrongly, I could say "I misheard it". But I cannot find the word "missee" in any dictionaries. Is there something else people use?


5 Answers 5


Here are my possible answers,

I'm sorry. I thought you were someone/somebody else.
I'm sorry. I mistook you for someone/somebody else.
I'm sorry. I've mistaken you for someone/somebody else.

  • 1
    Seems like "mistake" is kind of like the non-existing word "missee"? What about the idioms for seeing things incorrectly? Can I say "I mistaken it" or "I mistaken it for something else"?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 20:13
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    @Alex You can say I mistook X for Y when you saw X but you thought you had seen Y. This can be used for things too. NOTE: I mistook or I've mistaken. Commented Jan 8, 2014 at 20:18
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    @DamkerngT. As I said up there... I misidentified him as Jack. What you think?
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 7:39
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    @MaulikV I think misidentify is a good word! I've a little comment about misidentify. Seeing that you've posted it as another answer, I will add my comment there. Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 9:05

Despite its absence from many dictionaries, mis-see or missee is not unknown. OED 1 gives its first citation as 1591, and you may find it recurring across the centuries in Google Books right down to the present. (But you would do well to look for it in its inflected forms missees, missaw, misseen since most instances of missee represent missy as a name or title—the spelling usually indicates that a pidgin-English speaker is being quoted.)

It is by no means a common word, and most of the uses found in Google Books are drawn from literary criticism; but if you use it, in writing or in speech, I don't think you will be misunderstood.

Here are some contemporary uses in entirely colloquial contexts:

Maybe you missaw it as Spikes?   (from a Pokémon forum)

Unless I mis-saw, didn't Christine's fondant start from shop-bought marshmallows?   (from a forum on UK TV shows)

Out on the highway pickin' up clues / So much is mis-seen, so much to lose   (from a John Fogerty song, “Premonition”)

I only got to examine them peeking in from the side, rather than actually handling them, so I may well have been mis-seeing what I thought I was seeing. :)   from a sewing forum)


You asked for a word, and one word is misidentify.

COCA shows the result of the word misidentified.

You may say this (as I said in my comment) -

I misidentified him as Jack.

Oxford explains the word misidentify

Misidentify (verb) with object: identify (something or someone) incorrectly.

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    +1 I think misidentify is a good word; and it fits the OP's purpose. However, I have a feeling that it carries a little formal tone with it. (Others might be able to confirm my feeling.) I personally think of it as a more formal version of mistake (it seems to be not in my active vocabulary) and better suits writing, reporting (in papers and news), and in semi-formal and formal occasions. Nice word! Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 9:12
  • @DamkerngT. Yeah! But then when it comes to a person's identification, doesn't 'identifying' work? The OP first looked at that person and identified (because maybe the same height or body shape) him as Jack but actually missed the real features of Jack.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 9:17
  • Of course, it works. I thought I've said that. :-) Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 9:24
  • This is a good suggestion, although identify doesn't refer specifically to sight. I can identify (or misidentify!) a song just by listening to it.
    – user230
    Commented Jan 9, 2014 at 10:57
  • @snailplane The OP asked for a word and something closest fits there (one word) is misidentify/ied.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jan 10, 2014 at 4:27

I think "I mistook you for someone else" is the most natural sounding option for your situation. As others have said, "missee" is not a commonly used word.

In for other similar situations, "misheard" is acceptable. "Misread" is another word you could use, and you could also use it for things other than the printed word. If you see an ambiguous situation, and you jump to the wrong conclusion, you can say that you misread the situation.


Try "misperceive."

I misperceived you as someone else.

Seeing is a form of perception. Nobody sees the world objectively.

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