10 Examples of Eponyms in the English Language

What is an example of an eponym? “Thanks to his Machiavellian antics, Joe got a promotion that he didn’t earn.” In this sentence, the word ‘Machiavellian’ is a reference to the Italian author, Machiavelli. That’s an eponym. What is an eponym? It’s a word that comes from the proper name of a person or place. Eponyms words can be based on both real and fictional people and places.

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An Eponym Definition and Example

What is an example of an eponym? “Thanks to his Machiavellian antics, Joe got a promotion that he didn’t earn.” In this sentence, the word ‘Machiavellian’ is a reference to the Italian author, Machiavelli. That’s an eponym. What is an eponym? It’s a word that comes from the proper name of a person or place. Eponyms words can be based on both real and fictional people and places.

Some common eponyms are very well known. Others will only be familiar to people who understand the cultural reference. For example, if you say ‘I thought I was sunk when my tool broke, but I totally Macgyver-ed a fix.’, not everyone would understand that. They would have to be familiar with the television show ‘Macgyver’ featuring a character who could build and fix nearly anything from random items he would find, all while saving the world. Other eponyms examples enjoy more notoriety. For example, most adults living in the United States are familiar with the term ‘Obamacare’. However, it isn’t guaranteed that anyone outside of the states would understand that.

Eponyms are frequently created because of the close association between the person or place and the word. Many diseases are named eponymously for the people who discovered them.

There is one other form of Eponym. These are words that are initially brand names but now are used to reference entire categories of things. One of the most popular eponyms is a band-aid. While band-aid is the name brand that makes adhesive bandages, most people use the term to refer to any adhesive bandage, regardless of who makes it. Jello is another example.

Eponyms And Translation Challenges

As you might imagine, eponyms can cause a real challenge to translators and localization professionals. Like slang or idioms, translators must be sure that they translate words so that their meaning is retained. In some cases, it’s easiest just to keep the word in its original form, in its original language. In other cases, the word must be translated, then explained. Sometimes, it’s best to find a suitable substitution in the target language, that is a close match. That requires understanding both meaning and intent.

Eponyms Examples List

Now that we’ve explained what eponyms are, here is the promised eponym list. We think these examples stand out as the most interesting.

  1. America

The word America is named after Italian Map maker, Amerigo Vespucci.

  1. Caesar Salad

Restaurateur Caesar Cardini created the salad that now bears his name.

  1. Boycott

This word is named for an Irish land agent, Captain Charles C. Boycott.

  1. Fahrenheit

Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit is the physicist for whom this temperature measurement is named.

  1. Zipper

The word zipper started as a branded name. BF Goodrich put this fastener on a pair of boots they sold and called it a zipper. The name stuck, and now the word is used to universally describe this type of fastener.

  1. Cardigan

This is named after the 7th Earl of Cardigan. He led troops who wore this garment into battle.

  1. Sandwich

While some of the backstories may be lore, it is true that the word sandwich is named for the Earl of Sandwich.

  1. Nicotine

Jean Nicot sent powdered tobacco leaves and seeds back to France when he visited Portugal as an ambassador.

  1. Diesel

This field, used in trucks and other equipment is named after Rudolph Diesel.

  1. Reaganomics

This term is used to describe the economic philosophy of 80s United States president Ronald Reagan. It is used to describe a system where the wealthiest receive tax breaks and fewer regulations. This is then supposed to benefit the entire population.

Final Thoughts

If you’re a fan of word origins, eponyms can be quite interesting. In terms of translation, they are a bit of a challenge. What do you think? Do you have a favorite eponym?

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