Sunday, February 17, 2008

People who became Words

Here are a few words that are derived from names of people. A comprehensive listing of scientific units of measurement, which are generally not included here, is at This list consists of widely-used words which are not obviously named for people. Stuart Kidd, Charles Turner, Philip Bennett, and James Landau contributed to this section.

ABELIA Clark Abel (1780-1826), British botanist
ADAMSITE Roger Adams (1889-1971), American chemist
ALDRIN Kurt Alder (1902-1958), American chemist
ALEXANDRINE Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.), King of Macedonia
ALEXANDRITE Alexander I of Russia (1777-1825)
ALGORITHM al-Khowarizmi (c800 - c850), Arab mathematician
AMISH probably for Jakob Amman, 17th century Swiss Mennonite bishop
AUGUST Augustus Caesar (63 B.C. - A. D. 14)
AXEL Axel Paulsen (1856-1938), Norwegian figure skater
BACITRACIN Margaret Tracy (ca. 1936- ), child in whose tissues it was found
BAKELITE Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863-1944), Belgian-born American chemist
BAUD J. M. E. Baudot (1845-1903), French inventor
BÉCHAMEL SAUCE Marquis Louis de Béchamel (d.1703), steward of Louis XIV of France
BEEF STROGANOFF Count Pavel Alexandrovich Stroganoff (1772-1817), Russian diplomat
BEGONIA Michel Bégon (1638-1710), French patron of botany
BIRO József László Bíró (1899-1985), Hungarian inventor
BLOODY MARY Mary I Tudor (1516-1558), English queen (probably)
BLOOMER Amanda Bloomer or Amelia Jenkins Bloomer (1818-1894), American feminist
BOBBY Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), founder of London police force
BOUGAINVILLEA Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811), French explorer
BOWDLERIZE Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), British doctor
BOWIE KNIFE James Bowie (1796-1836), American pioneer
BOYCOTT Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), English land agent
BOYSENBERRY Rudolph Boysen, American botanist
BRAILLE Louis Braille (1809-1852), French teacher, writer and musician
BROMELIAD Olaf Bromelius (1639-1705), Swedish botanist
BROUGHAM Lord Henry Peter Brougham (1778-1868), British statesman
BUDDLEIA Adam Buddle (c.1660-1715), English rector and botanist
BUHLWORK A. C. Boule (1642-1732), French cabinet maker
BUNKUM, BUNK Col. Edward Buncombe, Revolutionary War hero (see note)
BUNSEN BURNER Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (1811-99), German chemist
BURKE William Burke, hanged in 1829
CAESAREAN SECTION Gaius Julius Caesar, who according to legend was born in this manner (c. 101 - 44 B. C.)
CAESAR SALAD Cesar Cardini (1896-1956), Tijuana, Mexico restaurateur
CAMELLIA George Josef Kamel (1661-1706), Moravian Jesuit missionary
CARDIGAN James Thomas Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868), British cavalry officer
CASANOVA Giovanni Jacopo Casanova de Seingalt (1725-98), Italian adventurer
CATHERINE WHEEL St. Catherine of Alexandria (d. ca. 307), Christian martyr
CHATEAUBRIAND Vicomte Francois Rene De Chateaubriand (1768-1848), French novelist
CLERIHEW Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956), English writer
CZAR Gaius Julius Caesar (c. 101 BC - AD 44)
DAHLIA Anders Dahl (1751-1789), Swedish botanist
DECIBEL Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)
DERBY Edward Stanley, 12th earl of Derby, founded the race, 1870
DERRICK Goodman Derick, a well-known Tyburn hangman, circa 1600
DERRINGER Henry Deringer (1786-1868), American gunsmith
DIESEL Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913), German automotive designer
DOBERMAN PINSCHER Ludwig Dobermann, 19th century German dog breeder
DOILY Mr. Doyley, a 17th century London draper
DOLOMITE Deodat de Dolomieu (1750-1801), French geologist
DRACONIAN Draco, Athenian lawgiver, circa 650 B. C.
DUNCE John Duns Scotus (c. 1265-1308), Scottish theologian (who was actually very smart)
EGGS BENEDICT Commodore E. C. Benedict (1834-1920), American yachtsman and banker
EPICURE Epicurus (342?-270 B. C.), Greek philosopher
EUSTACHIAN TUBE Bartolommeo Eustachio (1524-1574), Italian anatomist
FALLOPIAN TUBE Gabriel Fallopius (1523-1562), Italian anatomist
FERRIS WHEEL George Washington Gale Ferris (1859-96), American engineer
FILBERT Saint Philibert (d. 684), Frankish abbot whose feast day marks the ripening season of the nuts
FORSYTHIA William Forsyth (1737-1804), British botanist
FRANGIPANI Marquis Frangipani, 16th century Italian nobleman
FREESIA Friedrich Heinrich Theodor Freese (d. 1876), German physician
FRISBEE William Russell Frisbie, pie shop owner in Bridgeport CT
FUCHSIA Leonard Fuchs (1501-1566), German botanist
GALVANIZE Luigi Galvani (1739-1798), Italian physiologist
GARDENIA Alexander Garden (1730-91), Scottish-American botanist
GARIBALDI Giuseppe Garibaldi (1807-82), Italian patriot and soldier
GATLING GUN Richard J. Gatling (1818-1903), American inventor
GEIGER COUNTER Hans Geiger (1882-1945), German physicist
GERRYMANDER Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814), Governor of Massachusetts (he pronounced the g as in gray)
GLADSTONE BAG William Ewart Gladstone (1809-98), British statesman and prime minister
GRAHAM CRACKER Sylvester Graham (1794-1851), American dietetic reformer
GREENGAGE Sir William Gage (1777-1864), English botanist
GROG Old Grog, nickname of Sir Edward Vernon (1684-1757), British admiral
GUILLOTINE Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814), French physician
GUPPY Robert J. L. Guppy (1836-1916), British scientist from Trinidad
GUY Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), British terrorist
HANSOM Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-82), English architect
HAVELOCK Sir Henry Havelock (1795-1857), British general in India
HOBSON’S CHOICE Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), English liveryman
HOOLIGAN probably Patrick Hooligan
JACQUARD Joseph Marie Jacquard, 18th cent. French inventor
JACUZZI Roy Jacuzzi and Candido Jacuzzi (1903-1986), American inventors
JEREMIAD Jeremiah, Old Testament prophet
JEROBOAM Jeroboam, first king of the northern kingdom of Israel
JULY Gaius Julius Caesar (c. 101 - 44 B. C.)
K RATION Ancel Keys, American biologist and Defense Dept. researcher
KAISER Gaius Julius Caesar (c. 101 - 44 B. C.)
KLIEG LIGHT John H. (1869-1959) and Anton T. Kleigl (1872-1927), American lighting experts
KNICKERBOCKERS Dietrich Knickerbocker, pseudonym of Washington Irving (1783-1859), American author
LEOTARD Jules Léotard (1839-70), French acrobat
LEVIS Levi Strauss (1830-1902), Bavarian immigrant to the USA and clothing merchant
LOBELIA Matthias de Lobel (1538-1616), Flemish botanist and physician
LOBSTER NEWBURG Ben Wenberg (see note below)
LOGANBERRY Judge James H. Logan (1841-1928), horticulturist in California
LUDDITE Ned Ludd, 18th cent. Leicestershire workman who destroyed machinery (see note below)
LYNCH Capt. William Lynch (1742-1820), plantation owner in Virginia
MACADAMIA NUT John Macadam (1827-1865), Australian scientist
and MACADAM John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), Scottish engineer
MACH Ernst Mach (1838-1916), Austrian physicist
MACKINTOSH Charles Macintosh (1766-1843), inventor of the waterproofing process
MAGNOLIA Pierre Magnol (1638-1715), French botanist
MANSARD François Mansart (1598-1666), French architect
MARIGOLD Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus
MARTINET Col. Jean Martinet, 17th century French drillmaster
MASOCHISM Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (1836-1895), Austrian novelist
MASONITE William H. Mason, American inventor
MAUDLIN Mary Magdalene, Biblical figure
MAUSOLEUM Mausolus, 4th century B. C. king of Caria, Asia Minor
MAVERICK Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870), Texas cattle owner
and PEACH MELBA Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931), Australian soprano
MENNONITE Menno Simons (1492-1559), Dutch religious reformer
MESMERIZE Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), Austrian physician
MICKEY FINN Michael Finnish, American saloon keeper who allegedly drugged his customers (see note)
MORSE CODE Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791-1872), American artist and inventor
NAMBY-PAMBY Nickname of Ambrose Philips (1674-1749), English poet
NICOTINE Jean Nicot (c. 1530 - 1600), French ambassador to Portugal
ORRERY Charles Boyle, 4th Earl of Orrery (1676-1731), for whom one was made
OSCAR Oscar Pierce, American wheat and fruit grower and uncle of an Academy executive director
PAP SMEAR George Papanicolaou (1883-1962), American physician
PASTEURIZE Louis Pasteur (1822-1895), French chemist
PAVLOVA Anna Pavlova (1881-1931), Russian ballerina
PETER PRINCIPLE Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), American (Canadian-born) educator
PLATONIC Plato (c. 427-347 BC), Greek philosopher
POINSETTIA Joel Roberts Poinsett (1779-1851), U. S. minister to Mexico
POMPADOUR Jeanne Antoinette Poisson, Marquise De Pompadour (1721-1764), French aristocrat
PRALINE César de Choiseul, Count Plessis-Praslin (1598-1675), French soldier and diplomat
PULLMAN George Mortimer Pullman (1831-97), American inventor
PYRRHIC Pyrrus (c. 318 - 272 B. C.), king of Epirus
QUISLING Maj. Vidkun Abraham Quisling (1887-1945), pro-Nazi Norwegian leader
RAFFLESIA Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles (1781-1826), British colonial administrator in Indonesia
RAGLAN Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, 1st Baron Raglan (1788-1855), British field marshall
RASTAFARIAN Ras Tafari, precoronation name of Haile Selassie (1892-1975), Emperor of Ethiopia
RICKETTSIA Howard T. Ricketts (1871-1910), American pathologist
ROB ROY Robert McGregor (1671-1734), Scottish outlaw
RORSCHACH TEST Hermann Rorschach (1884-1922), Swiss psychiatrist
RITZY César Ritz (1850-1918), Swiss hotelier
SADISM Marquis Donatien Alphonse François de Sade (1740-1814), French soldier and novelist
SALISBURY STEAK James J. Salisbury, 19th century English physician
SALMONELLA Daniel Elmer Salmon (1850-1914), American veterinarian
SANDWICH John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich (1718-92), English diplomat
SANFORIZED Sandford Lockwood Cluett (b. 1840), American inventor
SAXHORN Antoine-Joseph Sax, also known as Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), Belgian inventor
SAXOPHONE Antoine-Joseph Sax, also known as Adolphe Sax (1814-1894), Belgian inventor
SEQUOIA Sequoya (c. 1770-1843), Cherokee Indian who invented the Cherokee syllabary
SHRAPNEL Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842), British army officer
SIDEBURNS Gen. Ambrose Everett Burnside (1824-1881), Union soldier
SILHOUETTE Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767), French minister of finance in 1759
SIMONY Simon Magus, 1st cent. astrologer from Samaria: Acts 8:18-19
SPOONERISM Rev. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), of New College, Oxford
SOUSAPHONE John Phillip Sousa (1854-1932), American composer and bandleader
STETSON John Bauerson Stetson (1830-1906), American hat-maker
TARMAC John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), Scottish engineer (the word is short for "tarmacadam")
TATTERSALL Richard Tattersall (1724-1795), British auctioneer
TAWDRY St. Audrey (St. Etheldreda, c. 630 - 679), queen of Northumbria
TEDDY BEAR Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U. S. president
TEDDY BOY King Edward VII of Great Britain (1841-1910)
TETRAZZINI Luisa Tetrazzini (1874-1940), Italian opera singer
THEREMIN Lev Theremin (1896-1993), Russian engineer
THESPIAN Thespis, 6th century B. C. Greek poet
TIMOTHY GRASS Timothy Hanson, 18th century American farmer (probably)
TOMMY GUN Gen. John Taliaferro Thompson (1860-1940), U. S. soldier
TONTINE Lorenzo Tonti (1620-1695), Neopolitan banker
TUPPERWARE Earl Silas Tupper (1907-1983), American landscaper and inventor
UZI Uziel Gal (1923-2002), Israeli inventor
VALENTINE Valentine, 3rd century Christian martyr
VERNIER Pierre Vernier (1580-1637), French mathematician
WELLINGTON BOOT Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), British soldier and statesman
WISTERIA Caspar Wistar (1761-1818), American physician
ZEPPELIN Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917), German general and aeronautical pioneer
ZINNIA Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759), German botanist

Bunkum, bunk. This word actually comes from the name of Buncombe County, North Carolina; the county was named in honor of Col. Edward Buncombe, a Revolutionary War hero. The word originated after the congressman from that county defended an irrelevant speech in Congress by claiming that he was speaking to Buncombe.

Mickey Finn. According to MWCD11, the term is "probably from Mickey (Michael) Finnish fl1903, American saloon keeper who allegedly drugged his customers."

The OED On-Line entry includes the following:

< the name of ‘Mickey’ Finn, a Chicago saloon-keeper of the late 19th and early 20th cent. who was alleged to have drugged and robbed his customers: see J. E. Lighter Hist. Dict. Amer. Slang (1997) II. 549 and the following:
1903 Chicago Daily News 16 Dec. 1/7: The complete defense advanced by ‘Mickey’ Finn, proprietor of the Lone Star saloon ... described ... as the scene of blood-curdling crimes through the agency of drugged liquor.

1903 Inter-Ocean (Chicago) 17 Dec. 1 (heading), Lone Star Saloon loses its license. ‘Mickey’ Finn's alleged ‘knock-out drops’ ... put him out of business.

Lobster Newburg. According to Dictionary of Words and Phrases by William and Mary Morris, the term is named for Ben Wenberg, a West Indies ship captain who came up with this dish by adding the ingredient cayenne to his famous recipe at Delmonico's Hotel. As the story goes, Mr. Wenberg had a falling out with the hotel owner, who, as revenge, reversed the first three letters of a dish which had previously been called Lobster Wenberg; hence, "Lobster Newberg." [Jim Lizzi]
Hooker. It seems to be widely believed that the term hooker is derived from the name of Civil War General Joseph Hooker. However, dictionaries indicate that the word has the same derivation as hooker in the sense of "one that hooks," and in fact the OED2 shows a use of the term in 1845 in N. E. Eliason, Tarheel Talk: "If he comes by way of Norfolk he will find any number of pretty Hookers in the Brick row not far from French's hotel."

Crapper. This word is widely believed to have come from the name of a Thomas Crapper. However, the word apparently derives from the word crap, which is found in middle English.

Condom. It is said that the device was invented by a Dr. Condom. However, most dictionaries have "origin unknown." The OED2 has: "Origin unknown; no 18th-cent. physician named Condom or Conton has been traced though a doctor so named is often said to be the inventor of the sheath."

Luddite. MWCD10 has "perhaps" on the origin of this word in the above table.

Rafflesia. Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles said that that the world's largest flower, Rafflesia arnoldii, named after him, "has blooms a yard wide, weighs as much as twenty-four pounds, and has a memorably horrible smell." Sir Thomas Raffles has at least two plants named for him, as Nepenthes rafflesiana is one of the largest species of carnivorous plants. This pitcher plant from Borneo thrives on the flesh of a variety of invertebrates and the occasional mouse or frog whose skeletons have been found in the pitchers digestive fluid. According to Guinness, rats and birds have also been consumed by the Nepenthes rafflesiana pitcher plant.

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