Proper Names to Words

Vivian Cook

Several common (and many uncommon) words have been formed from people’s names. Sometimes this is the person who discovered something ‘salmonella’, sometime the person who invented or sold a product ‘hoover’, sometimes the person who did something first ‘sandwich’ or had a particular characteristic ‘spoonerism’. Garments seem to have named after the great ‘cardigan’, plants have ‘-tia’ added to the name ‘aubrietia’, minerals the ending ‘-ite’ ‘vivianite’.  

cardigan: Earl of Cardigan, who may have worn a similar garment while leading the Charge of the Light Brigade, mid 19th C,

boysenberry:  R. Boysen, Californian horticulturist who produced this cross, early 20th C

bowdlerise: T. Bowdler, who censored Shakespeare to make it acceptable for families, early 19th C

dieldrin: O. Diels, named after Nobel prizewinning German chemist, 20th C

loganberry: J.H. Logan, Californian plant breeder produced this cross between a raspberry and a blackberry in about 1881

shrapnel: General H. Shrapnel, English inventor, early 19th C

waldo: Waldo Jones, the fictional disabled genius in Robert Heinlein’s SF story of the same name, 1942

spoonerism: Rev. W.A. Spooner, Warden of New College, who naturally used them, 20th C

salmonella: D. Salmon, US vet who was the head of the team that isolated it, 19th C

forsythia: W. Forsyth, botanist who brought the plant back to England in 1844

clarkia: named after William Clark, American explorer, early 19th C

gerrymander: Elbridge Gerry Governor of Massachusetts, plus the ‘-mander’ from ‘salamander’, said to derive from the shape that his attempts to redraw electoral boundaries made on the map, late 19th C.

aubrietia: named after Claude Aubriet, French flower painter 18th C

biro: László Biró, the Hungarian inventor, mid 20th C

saxophone: Adolphe Sax, German inventor 19th C

fuchsia: Leonhard Fuchs, named after 16th C botanist in 1703

sandwich: John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who sustained his gambling habit by eating meat between slices of bread, 18th C

maverick: Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-70) owned cattle in Texas which he refused to brand 19th C

boycott: Capt. Boycott, an Irish estate agent, whose workers refused to deal with him, 19th

macadam: J.L. McAdam engineer and inventor, early 19th C

wellington boots:  first Duke of Wellington, who wore high boots, 19th C

macintosh: Charles Macintosh, who invented the process, 19th C

pasteurise: Louis Pasteur, inventor of the process, 19th C

Words index  Vivian Cook