AskDefine | Define eponym

Dictionary Definition



1 the name of a person for whom something is supposedly named; "Constantine I is the eponym for Constantinople"
2 a name derived from the name of person (real or imaginary) as the name of Alexandria is derived from the name of its founder: Alexander the Great

User Contributed Dictionary

see Eponym



From sc=Grek from Æolic sc=Grek + όνομα. See -onym.


  • /ˈɛpənɪm/


  1. The name of a real or fictitious person that has, or is thought to have, given rise to the name of a particular item.
    Romulus is the eponym of Rome.
  2. A word formed from a real or fictive person’s name.
    Rome is an eponym of Romulus.
    Alzheimer's disease, boycott, Columbia, stentorian, sandwich and Victorian are examples of eponyms.

Derived terms


name of a person that has given rise to the name of something
word formed from a person’s name
  • Bulgarian: епоним
  • Dutch: eponiem
  • German: Eponym
  • Italian: eponimo
  • Portuguese: epônimo
  • Swedish: eponym




Extensive Definition

An eponym is the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, which has (or is thought to have) given rise to the name of a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item. An eponymous person is the person referred to by the eponym. In contemporary English, the term eponymous is often used to mean self-titled, as in "Metallica's eponymous 'black album'". The word eponym is often used for the thing titled. Stigler's law of eponymy suggests that Eponyms are usually false, i.e., things are rarely named after the person who discovered or invented them. An aitiology is a "reverse eponym" in the sense that a legendary character is invented in order to explain a term.

Political eponyms of time periods

In different cultures, time periods have often been named after the person who ruled during that period.
  • One of the first recorded cases of eponymy occurred in the second millennium BC, when the Assyrians named each year after a high official (limmu).
  • In Ancient Rome, one of the two formal ways of indicating a year was to cite the two annual consuls who served in that year. For example, the year we know as 59 BC would have been described as "the consulship of Marcus Calpurnius Bibulus and Gaius Julius Caesar(((he was a king)))" (although that specific year was known jocularly as "the consulship of Julius and Caesar" because of the insignificance of Caesar's counterpart). Under the empire, the consuls would change as often as every two months, but only the two consuls at the beginning of the year would lend their names to that year.
  • Well into the Christian era, many royal households used eponymous dating by regnal years. The Roman Catholic Church, however, eventually used the Anno Domini dating scheme based on the birth of Christ on both the general public and royalty. The regnal year standard is still used with respect to statutes and law reports published in some parts of the United Kingdom and in some Commonwealth countries (England abandoned this practice in 1963): a statute signed into law in Canada between February 6, 1994 and February 5, 1995 would be dated 43 Elizabeth II, for instance.

Other eponyms

  • Both in ancient Greece and independently among the Hebrews, tribes often took the name of a legendary leader (as Achaeus for Achaeans, or Dorus for Dorians). The eponym gave apparent meaning to the mysterious names of tribes, and sometimes, as in the Sons of Noah, provided a primitive attempt at ethnology as well, in the genealogical relationships of eponymous originators.

Lists of eponyms

By person's name
eponym in Bulgarian: Епоним
eponym in Catalan: Epònim
eponym in Czech: Eponym
eponym in German: Eponym
eponym in Spanish: Epónimo
eponym in Esperanto: Eponimo
eponym in French: Éponymie
eponym in Croatian: Eponim
eponym in Ido: Eponimo
eponym in Indonesian: Eponim
eponym in Italian: Eponimo
eponym in Hebrew: אפונים
eponym in Dutch: Eponiem
eponym in Japanese: エポニム
eponym in Norwegian: Eponym
eponym in Norwegian Nynorsk: Eponym
eponym in Polish: Eponim
eponym in Portuguese: Epónimo
eponym in Russian: Эпоним
eponym in Finnish: Eponyymi
eponym in Swedish: Eponym
eponym in Ukrainian: Епонім
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