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Word Meaning Eponym
macadam A kind of asphalt. John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), the Scottish engineer who first proposed compacted crushed stone as a road covering.
macadamia nut An Australian evergreen tree producing edible nuts. Named in 1857 by Ferdinand von Mueller for his friend John Macadam (1827-1865), a Scottish-born Australian chemist and politician.
Mach A measurement of the ratio of the speed of a moving body to the speed of sound. Ernst Mach (1838-1916), an Austrian physicist and philosopher who introduced the Mach number and who founded logical positivism.
Machiavellian Characterized by expediency, self-interest, and deceit. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian political theorist whose book The Prince (1513) argues that power is achieved and maintained by sheer determination void of any consideration of morality.
mackintosh (British) A raincoat made of rubberized material or the material itself. Charles Mackintosh (1760-1843), the Scottish chemist who invented a method for making waterproof garments by cementing two pieces of cloth together with rubber dissolved in naphtha.
madeleine A small cake, baked in a shell-shaped mold. Madeleine Paulmier, 19th century French pastrycook.
Mae West An inflatable life jacket, originally one issued to servicemen in the Royal Air Force during World War II (1939-1945). Mae West (1892-1980), buxom American actress favored very popular at the time.
magnolia An evergreen tree with large glossy leaves and great, white, highly fragrant flowers native to the southern US states. Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), a French botanist who played a critical role in developing the current botanical scheme of classification.
malapropism A humorously mispronounced or misused word or phrase. Mrs Malaprop, character in play The Rivalsby Irish dramatist Richard Brinsley Sheridan (1751-1816).
mansard roof A roof with two slopes, the lower one steeper than the upper. François Mansart (1598-1666), French classical architect.
marathon An arduous footrace or other long and difficult undertaking that is a test of endurance. The city of Marathon, Greece where, in 490 BCE, the Greeks defeated the Persians even though heavily outnumbered because a messenger named Pheidippides ran 150 miles in two days to Sparta for help.
marcel A hairstyle characterized by deep regular waves. Marcel Grateau (1852-1936), a French hairdresser who invented the style using heating irons.
March The third month of the Gregorian calendar between February and April. Mars, the Roman god of war.
marigold An annual plant with bright yellow or orange, multipetaled, round flowers. Presumably a reference to Mary, the mother of Jesus.
martin A swallow (bird). Probably after Saint Martin, the 4th-century Bishop of Tours.
martinet A rigid disciplinarian who demands absolute adherence to rules and regulations. Jean Martinet, French army officer during the reign of Louis XIV.
masochism The enjoyment of pain associated with sexual arousal. Psychologist Richard von Krafft-Ebing based this word on the name of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895), Austrian author of the novel Venus in Furs about the enjoyment of pain.
maudlin Overly sentimental, uncontrollably tearful. A corruption of (Mary) Magdalene, who wept at the empty tomb after the resurrection of Jesus.
Mauser A handgun used by the German army in World War II. Peter Paul von Mauser (1838-1914) and brother Wilhelm (1834-82), the German firearms manufacturers who developed it.
mausoleum An above-ground burial chamber. King Mausolus (died circa 395 BCE), ruler of Caria in ancient Greece, best known from his tomb which was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world.
maverick An uncontrollable individualist, iconoclast, unstable nonconformist. Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870), American cattleman who never branded his cows. Whenever his neighbors picked up strays, they called them 'Maverick's'.

Maxim (gun)


The first single-barreled, water-cooled machine gun that used recoil action to expell the empty cartridge and insert a fresh one. US born British gun manufacturer Sir Hiram S. Maxim (1840-1916).
maxwell A unit of magnetic flux in the centimeter-gram per second system. James Clerk Maxwell (1831-1879) who made fundamental contributions to the theories of electromagnetism and gases.
May The fifth month of the Gregorian calendar, between April and June. Maia, the Roman goddess of spring and fertility.
meander 1. To follow a winding course. 2. To wander aimlessly. The ancient Greek river Maiandros in Phrygia (Latin Maeander) and now the Büyük Menderes in western Turkey, noted for its many complex windings.
Melba toast Very thinly sliced crisp toast. Helen Porter Mitchell (1861-1931), a famous opera singer of the late 19th and early 20th century, whose stage name was Dame Nellie Melba, taken her native city of Melbourne, honored by having many edible trifles named for her (see also peach Melba).
Mennonite A member of an Anabaptist religion that emphasizes pacifism, nonresistance to evil, communal sharing, and a simple lifestyle. Menno Simons(zoon) (1492-1559), Frisian (Dutch) religious reformer who revitalized the Anabaptist movement and laid the foundation for the sect named for him.
mentor A teacher and advisor. Mentor, Odysseus' loyal friend in Homer's epic poem The Odyssey. Mentor was left in charge of Odysseus' son Telemachus while Odysseus was on his odyssey.
mesmerize mesmerise To fascinate someone to the point that they seem to be in a trance; to hypnotize. Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), Austrian physician who argued that the condition of the body is controlled by "animal magnetism". (James Braid 1795-1860, a Scottish neurosurgeon, invented and named hypnotism.)
methuselah An extremely old person. Methuselah, the oldest person whose age is mentioned in the Bible (969 years).
Mickey Finn A drink with knock-out drops (chloral hydrate) in it. Supposedly for Mickey Finn, Chicago saloon-keeper at the end of the 19th century.
Mickey-Mouse Easy, simple, unimportant. Mickey Mouse, a cartoon character created in 1928 by Wald Disney (1901-1966).
milquetoast A meek, timid, unassertive man. Caspar Milquetoast, a comic-strip character created by Harold Tucker Webster (1885-1952).
mirandize To read the legal rights to a suspect arrested on a criminal charge. Ernesto A. Miranda (1941-1976), laborer whose conviction on kidnapping, rape, and armed robbery was overturned because arresting officers failed to inform him of his legal rights.
mogul A very wealthy, powerful businessman. Mogul, a member of the Muslim dynasty of rulers in 16th -17th century India
molly A popular aquarium fish. Comte Nicolas-François Mollien (1758-1850), French politician and one of Napoleon's chief financial advisers.
mondegreen A slip of the ear, a mishearing that is repeated. Sylvia Wright misheard "laid him on the green" in a Scottish folksong as "Lady Mondegreen". This famous lady's name was commonized as the word for mishearings of the same ilk. (Thank you, Jennifer Roush)
Moonie A member of the Unification Church. Sun Myung Moon (original name Yong Myung Moon (1920- ) Korean industrialist who founded the Unification Church.
morgan An American saddle and trotting horse noted for its speed and endurance Justin Morgan (1747-1798), US teacher and owner of the stallion from which the breed is descended.
morphine An alkaloid of opium used in medicine as a narcotic analgesic. Morpheus, the Greek god of sleep and dreams.
myrmidon A lackey, someone who carries out orders obediently without question. The Myrmidons, a belligerent people of Thessaly who followed Achilles into the Trojan War.
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