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The Australian National University

Eponyms

The term Jacky Howe is an Australianism, and it means 'a sleeveless singlet, worn especially by shearers, rural workers, etc.'

It is also an example of an eponym.

An eponym is a person whose name has given rise to the name of a people, place, etc., or a personal name which is used as a common noun. This person may be living or dead, a fictional character, or a hero, etc. The term is also used to describe the word so derived.

The word eponym is from Greek eponumos which means 'given as a name; giving one's name to a thing or person'.

John (Jacky) Robert Howe (1855/61-1920/22) was a champion Queensland shearer of the 1890s. His tally of 327 merinos shorn in eight hours at Alice Downs in 1892, still stands as a world record.

Thus John (Jacky) Howe is the personal name or eponym from which the term Jacky Howe (= sleeveless singlet) is derived. The derived term is also an eponym.

Some other well known eponyms (of which there are about 35,000 in the English language) include:

  • banksia - an evergreen flowering shrub named after the English botanist Joseph Banks.
  • sandwich - the type of food named after an English aristocrat, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, said to have eaten food in this form so as not to leave the gambling table.
  • Hercules - a man of exceptional strength or size named after the legendary Greek hero Heracles (Hercules is the Latin form), noted for his great strength.

The following are eponyms:

  • Adonis
  • Alzheimer's (disease)
  • Bloody Mary
  • bowdlerise
  • bowler
  • boycott
  • cardigan
  • Cazaly
  • diesel
  • Don Juan
  • Dorothy Dixer
  • Elizabethan
  • gardenia
  • Gregory's
  • hoover
  • jacuzzi
  • loganberry
  • logie
  • mackintosh
  • Melba
  • Ned Kelly
  • ocker
  • pavlova
  • stetson

Look up these terms in the Australian National Dictionary, The Australian Pocket Oxford Dictionary, The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, or any other reference, and find the origin of these eponymous words.

Using the same sources, find some other examples of eponyms.

Eponyms are being created continually in politics, sport, technology, science, the arts, and the media. They can reflect the culture of society,particularly in the way they show what is valued or derided.

Perhaps you can invent some eponyms (with explanations) which relate to your home or school environment. Remember that persons can either give their name or have it attached by others to an event, activity, mannerism,behaviour, etc.

Updated: 19 October 2010/ Responsible Officer:  Centre Director / Page Contact:  Web Publisher