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Eponyms

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English

Did you know that Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, had a tree frog named after him? Because of his charity work in conservation, there is now a species of tree frog hopping around in Ecuador called Hyloscirtus princecharlesi (Prince Charles stream tree frog). This relates to the topic of eponyms, which we will be exploring today. We will look at the meaning of eponyms and some examples of the different types. We will also consider why they are used.

Meaning of eponyms

An eponym refers to a person, place or thing that gives its name to something or someone else. It is a form of neologism which refers to creating and using new words.

Why do we use eponyms?

Eponyms show the close connection between certain people and their discoveries/inventions and celebrate their importance. Because of this, eponyms can immortalise people and become of historical significance, giving credit to people who made a change in the world.

Before looking at the different types of eponyms, it is important to know how to use the word eponym in a sentence, as this could sometimes be confusing. You should refer to the proper noun first (the originator of the name) and then the new term. For example:

[proper noun] is the eponym of the [common noun].

James Watt is the eponym of the watt (a unit of power).

Types of eponyms

There are different types of eponyms, which differ in structure. The six main types of eponyms are as follows:

Simple

Compounds

Suffix-based derivatives

Possessives

Clippings

Blends

Let's take a look at these in more detail.

Simple eponyms

A simple eponym refers to a proper noun used as a name for something else. A simple eponym usually becomes reclassified as a common noun due to the frequency of its use. For example:

Atlas

The Greek God Atlas (the God of astronomy and navigation) is the eponym for an atlas - a book of maps created by Gerardus Mercator in the sixteenth century. In Greek mythology, Atlas fought the Titan War against Zeus (the God of the sky) and lost. Zeus made Atlas hold the World on his shoulders for eternity as punishment. This eponym shows the connection between the symbolic reference of Atlas holding up the world and the atlas bool with world maps inside.

FUN FACT: The phrase 'to carry the weight of the world on one's shoulders' comes from the story of Atlas.

Eponyms Statue of Greek God Atlas StudySmarterGreek God Atlas, pixabay.com

Compound eponyms

This refers to when a proper noun is combined with a common noun to form a new term. For example:

Walt Disney → Disneyland.

Walter Elias 'Walt' Disney was an American entrepreneur and animator, best known for being a pioneer of cartoon animations (and creating characters such as Mickey Mouse). In 1955, the theme park Disneyland opened, which was designed and built under the guidance of Disney himself. This is an example of a compound eponym as the proper noun Disney is combined with the common noun land to form the new word Disneyland.

Suffix-based derivatives

This refers to a proper noun that is combined with a suffix of a common noun to form a new word. For example:

Karl MarxMarxism.

Karl Marx created Marxism, an economic and political theory that focuses on the effects of capitalism on the working class. Marxism is an example of a suffix-based derivative as the proper noun Marx is combined with the suffix ism to form the new word Marxism.

Possessive eponyms

This refers to compound eponyms written in the possessive tense to show ownership. For example:

Sir Isaac Newton → Newton's laws of motion.

Physicist Sir Isaac Newton created Newton's laws of motion to describe the correlation between the movement of an object and the forces that act on it. The use of the possessive tense gives credit to Newton for his invention and clearly shows that it belongs to him.

Clippings

This refers to eponyms in which part of the name has been removed to create a shortened version. These are not as commonly used as the previous types of eponyms. An example is as follows:

Eugene KasperskyKasper.

Eugene Kaspersky created a computer protection programme named after himself. This is often shortened to Kasper in casual speech.

Blends

This refers to eponyms in which parts of two words are combined to form a new word. For example:

Richard Nixon Nixonomics.

This blend combines the proper noun Nixon and part of the common noun economics. It was created to refer to the policies of President Richard Nixon.

The same was done with other US presidents, such as Ronald Reagan - Reagan and economics combined to form Reaganomics.

Eponym examples - common eponyms

Here are some more examples of common eponyms that are frequently used! Are you familiar with the people who gave their names to the following terms? It is typical for the eponymous part of a term to be capitalised, whereas the common noun isn't.

Amerigo Vespucci = the etonym of America.

Amerigo Vespucci was an Italian explorer who recognised that the lands Christopher Columbus travelled to were continents separate from the rest of the world. This eponym was first used by German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller on both a globe map and a wall map that he created.

Barbara Handler = the eponym of the Barbie doll.

American inventor Ruth Handler created the Barbie doll, which debuted in 1959. Ruth named the doll after her daughter Barbara.

Fun fact: Barbie's boyfriend Ken was named after Ruth's son Kenneth.

Eponyms Image of a Barbie doll StudySmarterBarbie doll, pixabay.com

The 7th Earl of Cardigan (James Thomas Brudenell) = the eponym of the cardigan.

Brudenell created this eponym when the tail of his coat burned off in the fireplace, forming a shorter jacket.

Louis Braille = the eponym of braille.

Louis Braille was a French inventor who created braille in 1824, a writing system for the visually impaired consisting of raised dots. This invention, named after Braille himself, remains mostly the same to this day and is known as braille worldwide.

James Harvey Logan = the eponym of the loganberry.

Named after court judge James Harvey Logan, the loganberry is a mix between a blackberry and raspberry. Logan mistakenly grew this berry hybrid when trying to create a superior blackberry.

Caesar Cardini = the eponym of the Caesar salad.

Although many people think the popular salad was named after Roman Emperor Julius Caesar, it was Italian chef Caesar Cardini who supposedly created the Caesar salad.

Eponym vs Namesake

It is easy to get these two terms mixed up as they both refer to the use of names, but there are differences between the two. Let's begin by looking at the meaning of a namesake:

A namesake refers to a person or thing that has been given the same name as someone/something else. They are named after someone/something that originally had the name. For example, Robert Downey Jr. is the namesake of his father, Robert Downey Sr.

On the other hand, an eponym refers to the person or thing that has given its name to someone/something else. Think of an eponym as the originator of that name.

Eponyms - Key takeaways

  • An eponym refers to a person, place or thing that gives its name to something or someone else.
  • An eponym is a form of neologism.
  • The six main types of eponyms are simple, compounds, suffix-based derivatives, possessives, clippings and blends.
  • Eponyms are used to show the close connection between certain people and their discoveries/inventions and celebrate their importance.
  • Eponyms are not to be confused with namesakes, which refer to people or things that are named after someone/something that originally had the name.

Eponyms

An eponym refers to a person, place or thing that gives its name to something or someone else. 

An example of an eponym is as follows:


Louis Braille is the eponym of the word 'braille', a writing system for the visually impaired.

Most eponyms are capitalised as they are proper nouns (the names of people, places). But this is not always the case.

A 'thing' can be an eponym. For example, 'hoover' (a vacuum cleaner brand name) is an eponymous term often used to refer to vacuum cleaners in general.

The six types of eponyms are:

1. Simple

2. Compounds

3. Suffix-based derivatives

4. Possessives

5. Clippings

6. Blends

Final Eponyms Quiz

Question

What does an eponym refer to?

Show answer

Answer

A person, place or thing that gives its name to something or someone else.

Show question

Question

True or false?


Eponyms are used to show the difference between someone and their invention.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


An eponym is a  form of ______, which refers to the creation and use of new words.

Show answer

Answer

neologism

Show question

Question

What does neologism refer to?

Show answer

Answer

The creation and use of new words.

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a type of eponym?


A. Duplications

B. Possessives

C. Suffix-based derivatives


Show answer

Answer

A. Duplications

Show question

Question

What do compound eponyms refer to?

Show answer

Answer

When a proper noun is combined with a common noun to form a new term.

Show question

Question

What is a simple eponym?

Show answer

Answer

A proper noun that is used as a name for something else.

Show question

Question

What is the term used to refer to eponyms in which part of a name has been removed to create a shorter version?

Show answer

Answer

Clippings

Show question

Question

What is the name of the type of eponym in which parts of two words are combined to form a new word?

Show answer

Answer

Blends

Show question

Question

True or false?


Simple eponyms are often reclassified as common nouns.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

True or false?


The eponymous part of a term is usually capitalised.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Eponyms can become of ________ significance.

Show answer

Answer

historical

Show question

Question

Fill in the blank:


Possessives are eponyms that are written in the _______ tense.

Show answer

Answer

possessive

Show question

Question

What do namesakes refer to?

Show answer

Answer

A person or thing that has been given the same name as someone/something else who originally had the name.

Show question

Question

True or false?


Eponyms refer to people or things that have been given a name from someone/something else.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

True or false?


Eponyms are a type of neologism.

Show answer

Answer

True

Show question

Question

Which of the following is not a type of eponym?

Show answer

Answer

Complex

Show question

Question

Which type of eponym refers to a proper noun used as a name for something else?

Show answer

Answer

Simple eponym

Show question

Question

True or false?


An antonym is a type of eponym.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

True or false?


Eponyms are also known as synonyms.

Show answer

Answer

False

Show question

Question

The phrase 'to carry the weight of the world on one's shoulders' comes from the story of who?

Show answer

Answer

Atlas

Show question

Question

Eponyms show the ______ connection between certain people and their discoveries/inventions 

Show answer

Answer

close

Show question

Question

James Watt is the eponym of which unit of power?

Show answer

Answer

The watt

Show question

Question

James Harvey Logan is the eponym of which type of berry?

Show answer

Answer

Loganberry

Show question

Question

Barbara Handler is the eponym of which kind of doll?

Show answer

Answer

Barbie doll

Show question

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