Namesake (sometimes "name's sake") is a term used to characterize a person, place, thing, quality, action, state, or idea that is called after, or named out of regard to, another. For example, if a target person, place, or thing is named after a source person, place, or thing, then the name target is said to be the namesake of the name source. First recorded in 1646 to mean "person named for the sake of someone", the reference to something being a namesake of something else imports a connection between the two that extends beyond sharing similarly looking names to one of a shared name, usually called the same name. Namesake may be distinguished from eponym 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.


The term namesake was first recorded in 1646 to mean "person named for the sake of someone". Among other recordings, the 1646 usage was carred through in an 1806 publication, entitled A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language. Modern day usage has expanded to several uses for the term.


Using a namesake's name is a relatively common practice in naming children that has given rise to the large number of "Jr.", "III", and other name suffixes. Namesakes are often used in tribute to older, related persons, such as grandparents. Use of a namesake's name in a leadership position may indicate certain things, usually referring to certain traits of the namesake, such as in the use of papal regnal names.

Some commercial entities and products are named after their creators, such as the Trump Tower and Ford Motor Company. Items are also named after people associated with them, such as the teddy bear. This is especially the case with scientific discoveries and theories, such as Gibbs free energy. When the target name merely is derived from the source name without an additional "sake" connection, such usage more accurately may be called an eponym rather than a namesake.


There has been some discrepancy as to whether the name source or the name target takes the term namesake. According to the American Heritage Dictionary and many other other name-brand dictionaries, a namesake is a person or thing named after another. In other words, the name target takes the term namesake, as in
"I was named after my grandfather. I am his namesake."

The Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary are not so restrictive. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a namesake is a person or thing having the same name as another. Webster's Dictionary defines "namesake" as "one that has the same name as another; esp. one who is named after another or for whom another is named." By "for whom another is named", Webster's Dictionary allows the term namesake to be used in reference to the name source as in,

"I was named after my grandfather. He is my namesake."
Both usages of namesake are correct. This ambiguity sometimes may be resolved by the term namegiver, which refers to the name source as providing the name to the name receiver.

Examples of namesakes

Popular culture

Scientific items

Commercial products and entities

Professional examples

See also


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