The word eponym ends with the Greek suffix -nym, meaning "name". There are two acceptable definitions of eponym:
1. a person's name from which a word comes, for example:
- Caesar Cardini is an eponym. This Italian chef is credited with inventing Caesar salad.
2. a word (usually a noun) which comes from a person's name, for example:
- Caesar salad is an eponym. This dish was named after the chef Caesar Cardini who is believed to have invented it.
Here are two dictionary definitions for the word eponym:
1. one for whom or which something is or is believed to be named
2. a name (as of a drug or a disease) based on or derived from an eponym
Oxford English Dictionary
1. A person after whom a discovery, invention, place, etc., is named or thought to be named.
1.1. A name or noun formed after a person.
In the accompanying eponyms we have used the second of each pair of definitions above; that is, we treat an eponym as a thing that has derived its name from a person, real or fictitious. This should be more useful for learners of English, who are generally studying vocabulary rather than history. (For students of history the opposite approach might very well be more valid.)
Parts of speech
Eponyms are by definition nouns. And they are often the exact same word as the person's last name (for example, the temperature scale Celsius is named after Anders Celsius). Sometimes eponyms have new endings or additional words added (for example, a petri dish is named after its inventor Julius Petri). Some eponyms are also used as other parts of speech or word classes besides nouns. For example, the eponym boycott, named after land agent Charles C. Boycott, can also be used as a verb. Some eponyms change slightly when the word class changes (for example, the eponym ritz becomes ritzy as an adjective). On these pages we list eponyms strictly as nouns and also show examples when they are used as other classes.
Some eponyms retain the capitalization of the person they are named after (for example, Fahrenheit). Over time other eponyms have become household words and the initial capital has been lost (for example, ferris wheel). This may be the case even for some eponyms that are still protected by trademark.
Each entry in this reference section includes the following:
- example sentences
- quiz question
- usage note (if appropriate)
Legal note: The inclusion in this reference of any word that may be asserted to have proprietary status as a trademark or otherwise does not imply any judgement concerning its legal status.