Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Fun with names

For the past few days I’ve been tweaking (not twerking) my lecture on language for my classes next week, specifically the topic of names. Everyone can relate to exploring a name, or names in general, by thinking about them as words.

While browsing the library last week, I found a book titled “The Name Game, a Look Behind the Labels,” by Donna M. Jackson, illustrated by Ted Stearn, Viking, 2009.  As you might have guessed, the book is geared toward young readers, but makes the exploration into names fun for everyone.

I learned that words with the suffix “nym” or “onym,” originate from the Greek word onoma, which means name. It can refer to a specific type of name, or describe the relationship between words or names.

Some examples include:

Mononym: a one-word name, such as Rihanna.

Autonym: a person’s real name, as opposed to his or her pseudonym. Samuel Langhorne Clemens is the autonym. Mark Twain is the pseudonym.

Aptronym: a name suited to its owner’s occupation or interests, such as oceanographer Dr. Fish, or ophthalmologist Dr. See.

Eponym: Something named for a person, like Pike’s Peak, after Zebulon Pike, Jr.

Synonym: Words with the same or similar meanings: “Happy” is a synonym of “Cheerful.”

So the next time you are naming characters, places or other objects in your fiction, take time to think about the name you use. Names matter.

Write soon,



  1. Mary--Names DO matter. However, I don't think I will ever be able to toss out "mononyms" or "aptronym" at a cocktail party...; )

    The few times I have crafted fiction, I deliberate long and hard on the characters' names. When I dabbled in romance, I had a Venezuelan character, and was going to name him after my teaching partner's husband, but thought he might think it was creepy, since he is young enough (in reality) to be my son, and the character was my love interest. It turns out the story was published in an anthology, and he would have gotten a kick out of having his name in a book.

    Lessons learned: Names DO have an impact, and next time, ask.

  2. I am stuck on one particular name for a female character, and it shows up in many stories. This was a fun post.

  3. Thanks for your comments!

    I usually can come up with names quickly, but then spend a LOT of time rethinking them. Sometimes I change them, and other times, not. Right now I am changing the name of my main character in my first (unpublished) novel, so maybe that will bring me some luck!!!

  4. That was interesting... learned a few things. Thanks!