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An eponym is the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, after which a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item is named or thought to be named. One who is referred to as eponymous is someone who gives his or her name to something, e.g. Julian, the eponymous owner of the famous restaurant Julian's Castle. Something eponymous is named after a particular person, e.g. Julian's eponymous restaurant. Eponymous also means simply having the same name. In contemporary English, the term eponymous is often used to mean self-titled[citation needed]. An etiological myth 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" (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.
  • During 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

By category

Orthographic conventions


Capitalized versus lowercase

  • Because proper nouns are capitalized in English, the usual default for eponyms is to capitalize the eponymous part of a term. The common-noun part is not capitalized. For example, in Parkinson disease (named after James Parkinson), Parkinson is capitalised, but disease is not.
  • However, some eponymous adjectives are nowadays entered in many dictionaries as lowercase when they have evolved a common status, no longer deriving their meaning from the proper-noun origin.[1] For example, Herculean when referring to Hercules himself, but Herculean-often-herculean when referring to the figurative, generalized extension sense;[1] and quixotic and diesel engine [lowercase only].[1][2] For any given term, one dictionary may enter only lowercase or only cap, whereas other dictionaries may recognize the capitalized version as a variant, either equally common as, or less common than, the first-listed styling (marked with labels such as "or", "also", "often", or "sometimes"). For examples, see the comparison table below.

Genitive versus attributive

  • English can use either genitive case or attributive position to indicate the adjectival nature of the eponymous part of the term. (In other words, that part may be either possessive or nonpossessive.) Thus Parkinson's disease and Parkinson disease are both acceptable. Medical dictionaries have been shifting toward nonpossessive styling in recent decades. Thus Parkinson disease is more likely to be used in the latest medical literature (especially in postprints) than is Parkinson's disease.

National varieties of English

  • American and British English spelling differences can occasionally apply to eponyms. For example, American style would typically be cesarean section, whereas British style would typically be caesarean section (or cæsarean section [with digraph]).

Comparison table of eponym orthographic styling

Prevalent dictionary styling today Stylings that defy prevalent dictionary styling Comments
Addison disease[3] *Addison Disease
*addison disease
Allemann syndrome[3] *Allemann Syndrome
*allemann syndrome
cesarean [only][3]
cesarean also cesarian [but no cap variant][1]
  British dictionary entries from fairly recent editions may possibly be found for the following variants:[citation needed]
darwinian [only][3]
darwinism [only][3]
Darwinian [only][1][2]
Darwinism [only][1][2]
Darwinist [only][1][2]
diesel (n/adj/vi) [no cap variant][1][2]
and also
diesel engine[1][2]
dieselize, dieselization[1]
*Diesel engine
*Dieselize, Dieselization
draconian often Draconian[1]
eustachian [only][3]
eustachian often Eustachian[1]
eustachian tube [only][3]
eustachian tube often Eustachian tube[1]
eustachian tube or Eustachian tube[2]
*Eustachian Tube  
fallopian [only][3]
fallopian often Fallopian[1]
fallopian tube [only][3]
fallopian tube often Fallopian tube[1]
fallopian tube also Fallopian tube[2]
*Fallopian Tube  
Marxism [only][1][2]
Marxist [only][1][2]
mendelian [only][3] or Mendelian [only][1]
mendelian inheritance [only][3] or Mendelian inheritance [only][1] 
Mendel's laws[3][1]
*Mendelian Inheritance  
Newtonian [only][2][1] *newtonian  
parkinsonism [only][3][1]
parkinsonian [only][3][1]
parkinsonian tremor[3]
Parkinson disease [only][3]
Parkinson's disease [only][1]
*Parkinsonian tremor
*Parkinsonian Tremor
*Parkinson Disease
*Parkinson's Disease
quixotic [only][1][2] *Quixotic  

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa Merriam-Webster (1993), Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed ed.), Springfield, Massachusetts, USA: Merriam-Webster, ISBN 978-0877797074 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Houghton Mifflin (2000), The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (4th ed ed.), Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 978-0-395-82517-4 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Elsevier (2007), Dorland's Illustrated Medical Dictionary (31st ed ed.), Philadelphia: Elsevier, ISBN 978-1-4160-2364-7 

External links


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