An eponym is the name of a person, whether real or fictitious, which has (or is thought to have) given rise to the name of a particular place, tribe, era, discovery, or other item. An eponymous person is the person referred to by the eponym. In contemporary English, the term eponymous is often used to mean self-titled, as in "Metallica's eponymous 'black album'". The word eponym is often used for the thing titled. Stigler's law of eponymy suggests that Eponyms are usually false, i.e., things are rarely named after the person who discovered or invented them. An aitiology is a "reverse eponym" in the sense that a legendary character is invented in order to explain a term. Although in actual usage there is some overlap, an eponym may be distinguished from a namesake in that a namesake usually includes a "sake" connection to the source name whereas an eponym name merely is derived from a source name without an additional sake connection.
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 Greece, the eponymous archon was the highest magistrate in Athens. Archons of Athens served a term of one year which took the name of that particular archon (e.g., 594 BC was named for Solon).
- 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.
- Well into 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.
- Government administrations or political trends often become eponymous with a government leader. Examples include the Nixon Era, Trudeaumania, Jeffersonian economics, Jacksonian democracy, McCarthyism, Thatcherism, Kennedy's Camelot, or Reaganomics.
- British monarchs have become eponymous throughout the English speaking world for time periods, fashions, etc. Elizabethan, Edwardian, Georgian, and Victorian, are examples of these.
- 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.
- Places and towns can also be given an eponymous name through a relationship (real or imagined) to an important figure. Peloponnesus, for instance, was said to derive its name from the Greek god Pelops. In historical times, new towns have often been named (and older communities renamed) after their founders, discoverers, or after notable individuals. Examples include Quezon City, the former capital city of the Philippines, named after the city's founder, Manuel L. Quezon; Vancouver, British Columbia, named after the explorer George Vancouver; and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, originally called Isbister's Settlement but renamed after Queen Victoria's husband and consort in 1866.
- In science and technology, discoveries and innovations are often named after the discoverer (or supposed discoverer) or to honor some other influential workers. Examples are Avogadro's number, the Diesel engine, meitnerium, Alzheimer's disease, and the Apgar score. For a discussion of the process see Stigler's law of eponymy.
- In (modern) art
- Some books, films, video games, and TV shows have one or more eponymous principal characters: Robinson Crusoe, the Harry Potter series, Grey's Anatomy and I Love Lucy, 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. Some bands, such as the Tindersticks, Led Zeppelin, Crowded House, Van Halen, Duran Duran, Santana, Living in a Box, and Weezer, have released more than one and are thus referred to in other ways, including number and album art (e.g. The Blue Album). Peter Gabriel's first four long-play releases were all such (though the fourth was given a title for its US release). Another more common term is the self-titled album. The band R.E.M. titled their 1988 compilation CD Eponymous as a joke.
- Self-titled albums are often indicated with the abbreviation "s/t," e.g., "They Might Be Giants (s/t)"
Lists of eponyms
By person's name
- * List of archetypal names
- * Lists of etymologies