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What is an Eponym?

Updated on August 18, 2013

The English language contains a large number of eponyms. These are words derived from the names of people. But how do you get your name to be a word and one day be in the dictionary or should we say how your name can be eponymous? Certain professions and callings do seems to have more names in the dictionary.

Based on most of the eponymic names that ended in the dictionary, most of these names are from famous scientist. Most of the eminent men of science like Ohm, Ampere, Watt, Newton, Rutherford and the list go on and on.

Not all famous scientist or people ended up having their name as eponymic, even famous painters and musicians, their names were no where to be found in the dictionary.

According to Cyril Leslie Beeching, author of "A Dictionary of Eponyms" there are three main groups of eponyms:

  • Words derived from mythological or fictitious names
  • Words which are descriptive of a person or his works e.g. Shakespearean
  • Words that are taken from the names of people who actually exist or once existed.

Let us test your knowlegde about eponyms. . .

Will you be able to name a famous scientist or a person or an inventor, whose invention or part of his work can be found in your house , in your school, or in your workplace?

Think. . . . think . . . .think !!!!

Well if you want to know more .. . here are some eponyms and their story, you may have come across them.


French scientist Andre Marie Ampere (1775-1836) is one of three men (the other two being the Italian, Volta and the Scotsman Watt) whose names are almost certain to be found in just about every house, office, shop or factory – in fact any place where electricity is used for lighting, heating or running machines and appliances.

Ampere made a number of important discoveries in the field of magnetism and electricity and his name has been given to the unit of electric current and abbreviated to amp. he also formulated the Ampere’s Law, which forms the basis of the study of electrodynamics.


Anders Jonas Angstrom (1814-74) is the Swedish astronomer and physicist who gave his name to the unit used for measuring the wavelengths of light, ultraviolet rays , X-rays .

Angstrom was a student and later a professor at the University of Uppsala and carried out a number of original researchers in connection with light, including an analysis of the spectrum of aurora borealis.



Sir Francis Beaufort (1774-1857)was the English admiral and hydrographer who devised and gave his name to a scale of wind velocity the Beaufort scale or Beaufort’s scale. The scale ranges from nought (e.g. calm or conditions in which smoke rises vertically) to twelve (hurricane force winds above seventy –five mph)

Beaufort devised his scale in 1805 (the year of the Battle of Trafalgar) and became the official hydrographer to the Royal Navy in 1829.


George Boole (1815-64) was an English mathematician who devised and gave name of a method of applying mathematics to logic, known as Boolean algebra. Boole elaborated his method in his book.

An investigation of the laws of thought on which are founded the mathematical theories of logic and probabilities and his work has influenced a number of eminent mathematicians including Bertrant Russell as well as being important in computer studies.


Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) devised the library classification system known Dewey Decimal Classification. Many libraries all over the world, particularly public libraries are using the Dewey Decimal System.

Melvil Dewey was a student at Amherst College, Massachusetts when he devised his classification system and it was first adopted b the college library there. He became a founder of the American Library Association and the founder and first director of the New York State Library School.


Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) gave his name to a type of internal combustion engine which has become known as the Diesel engine.

Diesel, a German who was born in Paris patented his engine in 1892 and after five years, the firm of Krupp produced the first successful diesel. But some years earlier, a British engineer Herbert Akroyd-Stuart has patented similar kind of compression iginition engine which was effectively the prototype of the modern diesel engine.

The Rubik's Cube

Erno Rubik's Invention
Erno Rubik's Invention


Erno Rubik (1944- ) is a Hungarian sculptor, designer and architectural engineer. His invention of a toy-cum-puzzle in the form of pocket sized cube, the Rubik cube, has made his name world famous.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has honoured his invention with a place in its permanent design collection.

Each side of the cube is made up of nine "mini cubes ' that can be rotated in a number of directions to give numerous combination of six colours. Professor Rubik originally designed his cube to to give his students at Budapest School for Commercial Artists a better understanding of three dimensional problems, but solving the puzzles it presents now occupies the minds of millions of Rubik cube addicts from young children to academics.


Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) was a German born in Danzig (now Gdansk, Poland) who spent most of his life in Holland and England he invented a thermometer using mercury instead of alcohol. With a new scale named after him. The Fahrenheit scale has the freezing point of water marked at 32 degrees and the boiling point at 212

Fahrenheit scale was the one most used in Britain and other English –speaking countries and the USA for many years but by and large this has now been superseded by the centigrade scale.


Gabriello Fallopio or Gabriel Fallopius (1523-62) was the Italian anatomist who credited with discovering the function of the tubes or oviducts leading from the ovary to the womb and named after him as the Fallopian tubes.

From recent experiments a technique has been developed known as embryo transfer which enables a woman with a malfunction Fallopian tubes to give birth.

The egg is taken from the mother for fertilization with the father’s sperm and is eventually re-implanted in the mother’s womb, effectively “by passing" the natural function of the Fallopian tubes. The first test tube baby was born by means of embryo transfer on the 25th of July 1978 at a hospital in Oldham in the north of England And in 1982 a second child was given birth by the same mother by the same means.


Heinrich Rudolf Herts (1857-94) was the German scientist who gave his name to the unit of frequency , the hertz. Electromagnetic waves or radio waves wee also named after him as hertzian waves.

Working from the electromagnetic theory of the Scottish scientist, James Clerk Maxwell, Hertz demonstrated the existence of radio waves and revealed their peculiar properties. His discoveries played a major part in the development of wireless telegraphy.

In recent years, the name of Hertz has become familiar to millions of radio listeners through the introduction of the kilohertz (a measure of frequency equal to 1,000 cycles per second) in place of the metre on most new radios.

If you know more eponyms - please don't hesistate to add it on the comments box below.... thanks

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    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 8 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Here's another one: Boycott, from a fellow called Captain Charles Boycott, an estate manager for an absentee landlord in Ireland. It seems he was a jerk, so the local folks just refused to deal with him. He eventually had to go back to England.

      At the same time, we need to beware of folk-etymology. For example, it's popularly believed that the term "Hooker" (for prostitute) comes from the Union General Joseph Hooker, who supposedly hired such companions for his troops. But the term was in general use (ha, ha) before General Hooker became a public figure, so it's doubtful that "hookers" are named after Fightin' Joe.

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 8 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      Great hub!

      And we can't keep the men off of us, huh? Had no idea yet another part of my lovely inner works was claimed by a man - the fallopian tubes.

      I'll add one - kegel. Of course there is the Kegel muscle claimed by some man doctor referring to muscles of our pelvic floor. I refuse to use that kegel exercise term. It feels too weird to give a man's name to part of my anatomy that has existed 10s of thousands of years before him.

      Thanks for a great fun read!

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 8 years ago from Holly, MI

      Very interesting!! I knew a couple of these but the others I had no ideas they were named after someone! Great hub!

    • Ann Nonymous profile image

      Ann Nonymous 8 years ago from Virginia

      This was highly captivating. I knew about these but forgot the name for it. Thanks so much, Rosario for an entertaining hub! And oh, Jeff's comment is brilliant!

    • wesleycox profile image

      wesleycox 8 years ago from Back in Texas, at least until August 2012

      This was very informational. Good things to know too.

    • lorlie6 profile image

      Laurel Rogers 8 years ago from Bishop, Ca

      Love Jeff's comment, MM! Your hub is fabulous-I had no idea there existed a G. Fallopius.

      Now, how would you classify my name? It's Laurel-from the tree, not a person.



    • Jeff Berndt profile image

      Jeff Berndt 8 years ago from Southeast Michigan

      Not all eponyms come from real people. Mrs. Malaprop, a character in Sheridan's play, The Rivals, is where we get the "malapropism," a misuse of a word that sorta sounds like the one we mean, especially if the word we're trying for is a highbrow kind of word. Her name, in turn, derives from the French "mal apropos," or, loosely, "not appropriate."

      And then there's the Spoonerism, from Reverend Spooner, who said things like (and I'm not making this up), "Mardon me, Padam, this pie is occupewed. May I sew you to a sheet?"


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