• moniker •
mah-ni-kêr • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: (Humorous slang) A name or nickname.
Notes: Today's Good Word is an absolute lexical orphan: no derivational family whatsoever. It may be used as a verb, though, meaning (1) "to have been given a moniker" or (2) "to sign an autograph, to autograph".
In Play: We use this word in jovial conversations, for it is a bit facetious: "I found out the guy was from Texas, but I didn't get his moniker." The Oxford English Dictionary declares the verb rarely used. Its last reported use occurred in a 1995 article in The Economist, so it is still acceptable slang today: "Hillary monikered her book until her fingers collapsed."
Word History: Today's Good Word was first published in 1849, but was probably in circulation before that. It has been said to be originally a hobo term. Someone suggested it might be from monk, since monks take new names with their vows. In the early 19th century British tramps referred to themselves as "in the monkery", that is to say, in the monastery. We only need to put the Y between the N and K, and we get monyker. Others have suggested that it is eke-name pronounced backward + -er. But an eke-name had most likely already become a neke-name (on its way to become a nickname) before the early 19th century. So we are left with a dead end; anyone's guess is as good as an etymologist's. (We certainly know the moniker of long-time contributor Barbara Kelly, who recommended we do today's Good Word.)