Printable Version
Pronunciation: kah-mê-nê-zay-shên Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: The conversion of a proper noun or name to a common noun.

Notes: You probably know that an eponym is a proper name from which a common noun is derived. That process is commonization. So, if the steadfast English land manager, Charles C. Boycott, is the eponym of the English verb to boycott, his name was commonized to become that verb. As you can see, commonize is the verb from which today's Good Word is derived.

In Play: Since this is really a scientific term, use of this Good Word is rather limited to sentences like, "The word silhouette is a commonization of the name of Etienne de Silhouette, finance minister under Louis XIV, who decorated the walls of his château at Bry-sur-Marne with paper cut-outs." However, crapper is a word derived from crap, borrowed long ago from Old French or Old Dutch. It is not a commonization from the name of Thomas Crapper, the famous plumbing manufacturer of Chelsea, England. So, the claim that Mr. Crapper invented the flush toilet is just a load of, well, you know what.

Word History: The root of this Good linguistic Word, common, comes from Old French commun and, ultimately, from Latin communis "common, belonging to or used by all". The Latin root is composed of com- "with, together" + mun- "public service" + an adjective suffix. This same Latin stem gave us immune from immunis "exempt from public service". The root also underlies Latin mutare "to change", found in mutate, commute, and permute, not to mention mutual, which comes from the form mutuus "done in exchange". (Michael Queisser thought that, since this word often pops up in our Good Words, it would be nice to clarify it in our own inimitable way. Uncommonly nice of him to suggest it.)

Dr. Goodword,

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