• onomastic •
o-nê-mæs-tik • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Of or related to the study of the history and origins of names. 2. About naming, related to the use and application of names.
Notes: Today's Good Word comes from a rich family of words, including the extension onomastical and the adverb onomastically. The study of names is sometimes called onomastics, sometimes onomasiology—a word with its own family. Someone who collects names and studies them is an onomastician and a collection or book of names is an onomasticon. Predicting the future of someone by their name is onomatomancy or onomancy, a word in alphaDictionary's Glossary of Fortune-Telling Words.
In Play: Some Good Word subscribers suspect Dr. Goodword of onomastic jokes when he refers to people like ladies' man Phil Anders, lawyer Susan Liddy-Gates, and animal trainer Claude Butz. But that would make him a comico-nomenclaturist (a funny-name buff), wouldn't it? The web is currently so filled with onomasticons, we shouldn't lose sight of this word, either: "Llewellyn's mother must have turned to a Gaelic onomasticon for his name."
Word History: English, as usual, slipped this Good Word away from French where it was known as onomastique, the French makeover of Greek onomastikos "related to naming". This adjective was derived from onomasia "name", an extension of onoma "name". This word came from a Proto-Indo-European word, vestiges of which we see in virtually all Indo-European languages today. Russian turned it into imya, imeni, Sanskrit into nama, Dutch into naam and, of course, English created name from it. In Latin it became nomen, nominis, whose adjective nominalis "relating to names" was borrowed by English as nominal "in name only." (Now we must thank the onomastically colorful Lee Blue for suggesting today's Good Word.)