I was contemplating how the word confuse and refuse sound similar and realized that there's also defuse. I couldn't figure out what the abstract epi-meaning of fuse was so I tried to google for its...

...well, what was it I was looking for?

It's not synonym, not really antonym. I was thinking synoriginym but that was a miscarriage for an idea. So I'm asking here how to ask to find words that are obviously originating in an archaic term but are today entirely unrelated both by meaning and usage.

  • How do you know that those words are obviously related? Why can't the use of fuse at the end be completely arbitrary and coincidental? (Otherwise, you could argue that all words starting or ending with the same one or two letters—How many are required?—are related.) They might have some kind of similar root meaning, but it could also simply be you ascribing some kind of meaning to a pattern that you see. Do you actually have evidence that they come from the same source? Jul 22, 2019 at 11:22
  • @JasonBassford Good point. The short answer is, obviously, that I don't know. However, let's not go all too skeptical because of that. While it's imagineable that those terms are compounded by a prefix on an arbitrary stem, I find it likely that whoever started using the terms actually put in some effort in finding a proper and meaningful combination. Also, I can already sense the connection between confuse and refuse, so even if there might be exceptions, I don't feel that it defeats the assumption. It would be rather weird if they actually were arbitrarily assembled... Jul 22, 2019 at 11:30

2 Answers 2


two words that are related in descent are said to be "cognates". This term is particularly likely to be used for two words in different languages with shared descent. Words which come from the same ultimate source may be said to share a "common root" or "common stem" and the source word may be called the "root" or "stem" or "base".

Note that superficial similarities in word ending are often false cognates words that seem to be related, but in fact are not. Note that actual cognates, particularly when the common root is distant, are often not obviously similar in form. For example "fist" is ultimately believed to derive from an Indo-European root "*penkwe-" meaning hand, but the source of many words meaning "five" for the five fingers. This root is the source of, among others: cinquecento; cinquefoil; fifteen; fifth;; finger; fist; five; foist; parcheesi; penta-; pentacle; pentad; Pentateuch; Pentecost; pentagon; pentagram; Pompeii; Punjab; punch; quintain; quintet; quintile; quintessence; and various others

According to tymonline confuse is indeed cognate with refuse, and also with such words as: alchemy; chyle; chyme; confound; foundry; funnel; fuse; fusion; futile; futility; geyser; gush; gut; infuse; ingot; parenchyma; perfuse; perfusion; profuse; refund; and various others, from a root "*gheu-" meaning "pour"

Note that in linguistics, a word shown starting with an asterisk has been deduced to exist, but has not actually been found in written texts.


Related words are cognate and false friends – the latter on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Also, I find that a miscarriage for an idea would be better expressed as a stillborn idea, but that's just my opinion as a non-native speaker of English.

  • I took the liberty of formatting the answer a bit. I hope it's fine by you. As for the miscarriage and stillborn, I'm not NSE myself, neither, so your pick might be as good as mine. In fact, I'm going to as a separate question on in that regard because stylistic of such an expression might be alpha and omega for how it's perceived. Jul 22, 2019 at 15:39
  • It's been asked here. Take a peek if you feel curious. Jul 22, 2019 at 15:54

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .