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eponym n. 1. A person whose name is or is thought to be the source of the name of something, such as a city, country, or era. For example, Romulus is the eponym of Rome. 2. Medicine. A name of a drug, structure, or disease based on or derived from the name of a person.
[French Úponyme, from Greek "named after": epi-, epi- + onoma, onuma, name.]

eponymy n. Derivation of a name of a city, a country, an era, an institution, or other place or thing from that of a person.

eponymic adj. or eponymous adj. Of, relating to, or constituting an eponym.

Note: All the above dictionary entries are from the American Heritage Dictionary, New College Edition.

Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City, N.Y. 1964
Chamber's Biographical Dictionary, St. Martin's Press, N.Y. 1961
Dictionary or Word Origins by Joseph T. Shipley, The Philosophical Library, N. Y., 1945
Word Origins by Cecil Hunt, The Philosophical Library, N.Y., 1949
Webster's Biographical Dictionary, G.& C. Merriam Co., Publishers, Springfield, Mass., 1963

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EXAMPLES of Eponyms

algorithm: a procedural rule for solving a mathematical problem involving a repeated operation.
Such a device was discovered by the ninth century Arab mathematician Abu Ja'Far Mohammad Ben Musa, also known as al'Khowarazmi from his native town of Khiva, Kharazm.







boycott : to abstain from using, buying, or dealing with, as a protest or means of coercion.
This practice is named after Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), a land agent for the Earl of Erne, County Mayo, Ireland, who was ostracized by the tenants
for refusing to lower the rents.









Charles C. Boycott

1. exaggerated and sacrificial patriotism, usually demonstrated in War.
2. extreme and unreasoning partisanship on behalf of a group to which one belongs, especially when the partisanship includes malice and hatred towards a rival group.
Nicholas Chauvin de Rochefort (fl. 1815), a French fusilier, was wounded seventeen times during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. He suffered three amputated fingers, a fractured shoulder and mutilation of the forehead. For his bravery he received a sword of honor, a red ribbon and a pension of two hundred francs.
churrigueresque: a Spanish baroque architectural style characterized by elaborate surface decoration.
Jose Churriguera (d. 1713), a Spanish architect, created this style.







a churrigueresque style church

Droste effect: A picture exhibiting the Droste effect depicts a smaller version of itself which depicts an even smaller version of itself in the same place, and so on. Technically this can go on forever, but practically it continues as long as the resolution of the picture allows.

Droste Cocao The package for this famous Dutch cocoa depicts a nurse carring a plate with a package on which there is the same package, etc.








 Droste cocoa package

galvanize: to coat with zinc by means of an electric current.
Luigi Galvani (d. 1798), an Italian physician and physicist, perfected this process designed to protect metals.







Luigi Galvani

gerrymander: to divide a territorial unit into election districts in order to give one political party a majority in many districts.
This word is a blend, whose two parts originate from: (1) Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), elected governor of Massachusetts in 1810 and 1811 and fifth vice-president of the U.S. in 1812 under James Madison.

As Massachusetts' governor he enacted a law dividing the state into new senatorial voting districts; and (2) a clipped form of salamander, whose shape describes the election districts which he created for his own political advantage.






Elbridge Gerry

jeroboam: an oversize wine bottle holding four twenty-six ounce quarts.
This object traces its name to King Jeroboam I (fl. 912 B.C. ruler of Israel's northern kingdom. In the Bible he is called "a mighty man of valour" (KJV, I Kings 11:28). Solomon gave him command over the house of Joseph. After learning that the prophet Ahijah promised Jeroboam the right of kingship over ten tribes of Israel, Solomon plotted unsuccessfully to kill Jeroboam.







a jeroboam


Johnsonese: a literary style characterized by balanced phraseology and Latin-like diction.
This term is coined from the literary style of the English lexicographer Dr. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), whose Dictionary appeared in 1755.







Samuel Johnson

lavaliere: A piece of jewelry hung around the neck on a chain.
This kinds of jewelry is named after the Duchesse de La Valliere, the lover of King Louis XV.





Duchesse de La Valliere


malapropism: the humorous misuse of a word.
The lines of Mrs. Malaprop in R.B. Sheridan's comedy The Rivals (1755) abound with unparagoned blunders. One example is: "He is the very pineapple of politeness."








Mrs. John Drew playing Mrs. Malaprop in a  1880 production of The Rivals.

mausoleum: a grand sepulchral monument.
Artemesia, widow of Mausolus, king of Caria in Asia Minor, erected to her husband's memory in 353 B.C. a prodigious tomb at Halicarnassus. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Mausoleum reached a height of one hundred feet. On its top stood a statuary group including Mausolus and Artemesia.





Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

melba toast: a thin toasted crisp bread.
This claims its name from Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931), an Australian opera singer, born Helen Porter Mitchell. Her stage name is derived from Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, Australia. After appearing on the European stage, she made her U.S. debut as Lucia di Lammermoor at the New York Metropolitan Opera House in 1893. The dish called melba, a combination of fruit, ice cream, raspberry sauce and whipped creme, also recalls her fame.








Dame Nellie Melba

mercerize: to give cotton thread lustre, strength and receptivity to dyes by treatment under tension with caustic soda.
An English calico printer and dye chemist, John Mercer (1791-1866) invented this technique.





John Mercer

mesmerize: to subject to hypnotic induction.
A Viennese physician, Dr. Franz A. Mesmer (1733-1815), investigated the curative powers of the magnet. He developed the technique of animal magnetism, later called mesmerism, as a facet of hypnotism.







Dr. Franz A. Mesmer

milquetoast : One who has a meek, timid, unassertive nature.
After Caspar Milquetoast, a comic-strip character created by Harold Tucker Webster. An indication of the effect on the English language of popular culture such as that found in comic strips is the adoption of names from the strips as English words. Casper Milquetoast, created by Harold Webster in 1924, was a timid and retiring man, whose name was, of course, created from the name of a timid food. The first instance of "milquetoast" as a common noun is found in the mid-1930's. "Milquetoast" thus joins the ranks of other such words, including "sad sack," from a blundering army private invented by George Baker in 1942, and Wimpy, from J. Wellington Wimpy in the Popeye comic strip, which became a trade name for a hamburger . If we look to the related world of the animated cartoon, we must of course acknowledge Mickey Mouse, which has become a slang term for something that is easy, insignificant, small-time, worthless, or petty.







poinsettia: an American tropical shrub whose usually red petal-like leaves grow beneath small yellow flowers.
The name of this plant honors the accomplishments of Joel R. Poinsett (1799-1851) from South Carolina. Born in Charleston, Poinsett represented his state in the U.S. House of Representatives (1812-1825), later became the first U.S. Minister to Mexico (1831-1841). In 1810 he visited Buenos Aires and Chile to initiate friendly commercial relations between the southern hemisphere and the United States.







Joel R. Poinsett

quisling: a tratior or collaborationist
Vidkun Abraham Lauritz Jonss°n Quisling (1887-1945) was a Norwegian fascist politican and officer. He was Minister President in occupied Norway from February 1942 until the country was liberated at the end of the war. He was executed for high treason after the war and his name because associated with traitors and collaborationists.








Vidkun Quisling



raglan: a coat, jacket or sweater with slanted shoulder seams and sleeves extending in one piece from the neckline.
Such a garment was favored by F.J.H. Somerset (1788-1865), dubbed Baron Raglan in 1852. While serving in the Crimean War, he led the British to victory at the Battle of Alma in 1854 and in later action lost his sword arm.







F.J.H. Somerset, Baron Raglan

silhouette: a shadow-like drawing, especially of a human head or figure, in which the outline is filled in with a solid color instead of physical details.
Named after Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), a French finance minister.




Etienne de Silhouette

spoonerism: Spoonerisms are phrases, sentences, or words in language with sounds swapped. Named after Reverend W. A. Spooner (1844-1930) who was Dean and Warden of New College in Oxford, England. He is reputed to have made these verbal slips frequently. E.g., "a well-boiled icicle" for "a well-oiled bicycle."








Rev. W. A. Spooner

tontine: 1. an investment plan in which individual participants purchase shares in a common fund and receive an annuity and in which the entire fund is given to the final survivor or to those who survive after a specified time. 2. Any shared property which is inherited by surviving owners after a specified period of time, such as the bottle of brandy which Colonel Potter inherited from his World War I buddies in M*A*S*H.
Named after Lorenzo Tonti (1635-1690?), an Italian-born French banker.
There are many more eponymns. See http://users.tinyonline.co.uk/gswithenbank/eponyms.htm.

For medical eponymns, see http://www.whonamedit.com/.


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CLAS224 Word Elements. Monmouth College Monmouth, Illinois
Instructor: Thomas J. Sienkewicz (toms@monm.edu)