An eponym is a person, whether real or fictitious, whose name has (or is thought to have) given rise to the name of a particular place, tribe, discovery, or other item. An eponymous person is the same as an eponym.


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 cases of eponymity occurred in the second millennium BC, when the Assyrians named each year after a high official (limmu).
  • In ancient Greece, the eponym archon was the highest magistrate in Athens. The Archon of Athens had a yearly charge and each year was named after the elected one (e.g., the year 594 BC was named after Solon).
  • In Rome, the two annual consuls, as formal chief magistrates of the Roman republic (never constitutionally abolished, so still formally the joint heads of government even under the 'political' reality of empire, both principate and dominate) gave both their names -regardless whether either one was reelected- to the year they were in office, this being the formal way of dating, alongside the 'Ab Urbe Condita' continuous year ordinal (starting from the mythical date of the founding of Rome), the Greek Olympiad or even the rather pointless fiscal indiction (yet a tradition long surviving the Roman empire).
Famously, when the future dictator for life Julius Caesar was in office with a politically utterly insignificant colleague, the jocular phrase was 'the consulate of Julius AND Caesar'. Emperors would often be elected consul, some even repeatedly, but never had an automatic right to be eponymous.
  • Even well in the Christian era, dating eponymously by reign-years (the first, 2nd etc year of a named monarch) was not uncommon in various chanceries, especially at the court of a prince aspiring pivotal importance to his entire state's society, and was copied by minor dignitaries, even prelates. But the church, carefully presenting God as the supreme monarch above all mortal rulers (at times with some success in positioning its ecclesiastic head, the pope, as his vicegerent on earth - sovereigns as John Lackland of England recognized him as their suzerain, the Holy Roman Emperor's refusal to do so being the ideological stake of the medieval so-called Investiture conflict), would succeed in imposing first on the public, and ultimately on all royal scripts, the 'neutral' dating AD.

Other eponyms

  • Both in ancient Greece and independently among the Hebrews, a legendary leader of a tribe gave his name to it (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 too, in the genealogical relationships of eponymous originators.
  • Places and towns can also be given an etymological meaning through an important figure: Peloponnesus was said to derive its name from Pelops. In historical times, new towns have often been named and renamed for historical figures.
  • In science and technology, discoveries are often named after the (supposed) discoverer, or to honor some other influential workers. Examples are Avogadro's number and Parkinson's disease.
  • In (modern) art
    • Some books, films, and TV shows have an eponymous principal character(s): Robinson Crusoe and Daria, for example.
    • The term is also applied to music, usually with regard to record titles. For example, Blur's 1997 album was also titled Blur. Many other artists and bands have also served as eponyms of albums or singles, usually as their debut or second release. (Blur is an oddity in that their album Blur was their 5th release.) Some bands, such as the Tindersticks, Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, and Weezer, have released more than one. Peter Gabriel's first four long play releases were all such. Another more common term is the self-titled album. The band R.E.M. titled their 1988 compilation CD Eponymous as a joke.

Lists of eponyms

By person's name

By category

See also

External links

es:Epónimo nl:Eponiem no:Eponym pl:Eponim sv:Eponym


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