• antonomasia •
æn-tah-nê-may-zhê • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, mass
Meaning: 1. The substitution of an epithet or title for a proper name, e.g. 'the King' for King George or 'the Bard' for Shakespeare. 2. The use of a proper name to express a quality or characteristic, e.g. calling a miser 'a Scrooge'.
Notes: Sometimes antonomastic uses become the norm. Calling a traitor 'a Quisling', led to quisling becoming a synonym of traitor. Don't forget the T in the adjective for this word: antonomastic.
In Play: I traditionally give examples of rhetorical tropes like today's rather than examples of the word's use. A womanizer is often called a 'a Casanova', a traitor, 'a Judas', a smart person is frequently seen as 'an Einstein'. In today's word's second sense, examples include Frank Sinatra, called 'the Chairman', Bruce Springsteen is 'the Boss', Elvis was 'the King', and Madonna, 'the Queen of Pop'.
Word History: Today's Good Word is from Greek antonomasia, the noun from antonomazein "to call by a different name", made up of anti "instead" + onomazein "to name", based on onoma "name". Anti meant in Greek "against, opposite, instead". It was inherited from PIE anti "against, before, in front of", source also of the anti- in Italian antipasto. The preposition came from PIE ant- "front, forehead", which Latin made its ante "before" from. Many IE languages borrowed this word for the prefix ante- "before", as English antebellum "before (the) war" and antediluvian "before (the) flood". Onoma comes from PIE no-men- "name", source also of English name and German Name, Latin nomen, Sanskrit nama, Irish ainm, and Russian ima, imeni. (Jeremy Busch, of the Good Word editorial board, recently resurrected this suggestion from Katy Brezger, Grand Panjandrum of days gone by (2006), who sometimes contributed under the pseudonym "Mark Bailey".)
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