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25 Interesting Words Derived from the Names of People Throughout History

Words Derived from Names

English is a language that is rich in eponyms, words that are derived from the names of people who are fictional, mythical or real. These words could represent philosophies, adjectives, discoveries, inventions, places, objects, etc. and the people they were named after often have interesting stories. Here are 25 such great words derived from names of people whose stories are so peculiar and significant that they left a long-lasting impression on the world.

1. Bluetooth

A wireless technology used to connect devices. Named after the King of Denmark and Norway, Harald Bluetooth, who united clashing Danish tribes into one kingdom in the 10th century.

Harald Bluetooth
Image Source: ancientpages, weebly

In 1997, the idea of using the name of the king of Denmark was proposed by Jim Kardach who developed a system that allowed mobile phones to communicate with computers. He was reading a book called The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson, which is a historical fiction about the Vikings and King Harald Bluetooth, and got the idea that Bluetooth technology does just what the king did, unite the communication protocols into one universal standard. The logo for Bluetooth is a merging of two Nordic runes that are actually Harald’s initials.(source)


2. Bowdlerize

To remove material considered improper or offensive, but often making the source less effective. Named after Thomas Bowdler who published an “appropriate” version of Shakespeare meant for women and children.

Thomas Bowdler's Shakespeare
Image Source: wikipedia, tawdryknickers

The Bowdler’s The Family Shakspeare was first published in 1807 and contained 24 of the plays with the censorship done by his sister Harriet. The spelling “Shaksspeare”, that was used by Bowdler, was changed in the later editions during the mid 19-century to “Shakespeare”. Though these censored editions were criticized for being a negative example, Bowdler’s editions made it easier for Shakespeare to be taught to wider and younger audience.(source)

3. Sideburns

Part of facial hair grown on either side of the face as a continuation of the hairline but shaved over the chin. Derived from the last name of Ambrose Burnside, an American soldier, inventor, and industrialist, who wore such a style of facial hair.

Ambrose Burnside
Image Source: wikipedia

Ambrose Burnside was popular both in army and politics, and he maintained his relationships by remembering everyone’s name and smiling a lot. However, he was not that popular when it came to military and was thought not suitable intellectually and emotionally to take up high command. He was also noted for his unusual facial hair which continued from his hairline and joined his mustache, but with the chin clean-shaven.(source)


4. Chauvinism

To show excessive fanaticism or partiality towards a group while being prejudiced or hostile against another one. Named after a French soldier, Nicolas Chauvin, who was a fanatic and blindly devoted Bonapartist.

Nicolo Chauvin
Image Source: cabinetmagazine, wikipedia

According to the legend, Chauvin was badly wounded in the Napoleonic wars and received a meager pension to live on. After Napoleon’s abdication, he stayed blindly devoted to his cause despite the unpopularity of Bonapartism during Bourbon Restoration of France. This extreme devotion by him, in spite of neglect by his faction and harassment by its enemies, started the use of this word. Since then, the term chauvinism evolved to mean fanatical devotion towards a group and hostility against others, and in contemporary English to mean a stance that people of one gender are better than those who belong to the opposite gender.(source)

5. Casanova

Someone with a passion for women and has many lovers. Named after Giacomo Casanova, who was famous for his complicated affairs with women.

Giacomo Casanova
Image Source: lenta

Casanova is perhaps the most famous and easily recognized eponym. Giacomo Casanova, who is an Italian adventurer and writer, often writing under many fictitious names. His memoir, Histoire de ma vie (Story of My Life), is considered as one of the best sources of the 18th-century European social life. One of the topics he discusses in his memoirs is his adventures with as many as 120 women and girls, and there are vague mentions of male lovers as well.(source)


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