- Eponymous is an adjective that refers to the person, place, or thing that something else is named after.
- However, eponymous can also refer to the thing that is named after something else.
For better or worse, we humans like to give our names to things. Sometimes, we name things after the people who were involved in discovering or formulating them. The Bohr radius, for example, was named after Niels Bohr. Other times, we name things we established or founded after ourselves. The Ford Motor Company was named after its founder Henry Ford. Throughout history, it was quite common to paste someone’s name over existing names of things—Lake Victoria already had several local names when it was named Lake Victoria. But in this name-giving game, eponyms play a prominent role, and eponymous is an often used adjective.
What does eponymous mean?
The meaning of the adjective eponymous is closely related to its parent noun—eponym. An eponym is the person, place, or thing that something else is named after. For example, Achilles is the eponym of the Achilles tendon. Queen Victoria is the eponym of Lake Victoria and quite a few other things. Amerigo Vespucci is the eponym of America.
Eponym has Greek roots—it was derived from the word epōnumos, which is a combination of the prefix epi, meaning “upon,” and onoma, meaning “name.”
Eponymous, being the adjective derived from the word eponym, carries the same meaning—it describes someone after whom something was named. So, if you talk about the movie John Carter, you can say that its eponymous character gets to go to Mars. At least, that’s one of the ways you can use eponymous—and this is where the confusion begins.
How to use eponymous
The problem with both eponym and eponymous is that they are also used the other way around. Eponym can mean something that is named after someone, so Lake Victoria can become Queen Victoria’s eponym. The same goes for eponymous, so you can say that John Carter, in the eponymous movie, visits Mars. There’s a very similar issue with “namesake,” a word whose meaning overlaps with eponym.
Luckily, in plenty of cases, it’s quite easy to understand who was named after what—the Beatles weren’t named after their self-titled album, and Niels Bohr wasn’t named after the Bohr radius. In situations where it’s not clear who was named after what, choosing a word other than eponymous might be the best way to avoid confusion.
Examples: Eponymous in a sentence
While Pulitzer successfully grew her eponymous line from a side business into a national brand throughout the ’60s and ’70s, by the early 1980s the company was overextended.
The film follows Thomas Middleditch as the eponymous character, still reeling from the sudden end of his engagement to the bubbly Rachel (Alison Brie).
Designed by Rebecca Taylor, LA VIE is a lower-end offshoot of the designer’s eponymous range, and as its name suggests, each piece was designed to be seamlessly adapted into your everyday life.
Sandler plays the eponymous lead character, a talent manager working in Los Angeles in the ’90s who falls in love with a client, Courtney Clarke (played by Jennifer Hudson), a singer he discovers at an amusement park.
—The Los Angeles Times