Eponymous Words Directory

(words which originated from the names of people, things, and places)

An introduction to the origins of named names!

Eponym refers to a name being the source of terms for other things; such as, nations, tribes, places, animals, social nomenclature, etc. The word eponymous was borrowed from Greek eponymos, "given as a name, giving one's name to something or someone".

This directory, or index, of words presents a broad spectrum of proper nouns that have become "common" and even some which may be considered to be "uncommon" words.

They describe every aspect of life on our planet; including such things as, the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms; the minds and bodies of humans; our many needs and the many activities of people as reflected in their diversity, closeness, progressive innovations, and belligerencies.

gyp, Gypsy
Gypsy, gyp; a people now more often referred to as Romany.
malaprop (s) (noun), malaprops (pl)
A silly misuse or humorous presentation of words which have different meanings than those that are spoken: This link will show you many examples of malaprops, which came from a drama character's name.

An example of a malaprop was a cartoon in which a character says that a fully grown horse years ago was a little hoarse.

malaria (bad air)
Malaria, a reference to the "bad air" (mala aria) around swamps which was believed by the Romans to cause the same kinds of debilitating diseases which still exist in our modern world.
Mosquito, a Spanish diminutive of mosca, "fly" or "little fly" from Latin musca.
Sandwich, its history and modern usage in two parts.

Eponyms have come from many sources

Many sources provide the world with names, but perhaps literature, the Bible, and mythology have given us the most prolific contributions.

The Bible, as the most widely read book or group of books, in the world is naturally a great source of words; among them Judas, Cain, Jezebel, Jonah, and sodomite. The word Bible itself was derived from the Greek word for "book", but the Greeks in turn obtained their term from the Phoenician port of Byblos, from which papyrus, the material used to write books, was exported all over the then known world.

Another great source of eponyms came from Greek and Roman mythology from which we have inherited echo, fauna, flora, hygiene, atlas, Venus, jovial, sphinx, and many others. In fact, Freud included a number of classical words: oedipus, Electra, Eros, and narcissism into his psychological theories.

Some eponyms have immortalized people without complimenting them

  • The guillotine was named for Dr. Joseph I. Guillotin, its humane promoter.
  • Nicotine was named for the diplomat who extolled the virtues of the tobacco plant; Jean Nicot.
  • Virgina cowslip, a plant honoring Elizabeth I, the "Virgin Queen" of England.

Many words came into existence by "mistaken identity"

  • It was erroneously thought that gypsies came from Egypt; instead of India and Persia.
  • People also thought that the Pennsylvania Dutch came from Holland; instead of Germany and Switzerland.
  • Similar mistakes were made in naming the guinea pig and the turkey, animals that really did not come from the countries whose names they bear.