One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
The substitution of an epithet or title for a proper name (e.g. the Maid of Orleans for Joan of Arc).
- ‘A fine example of antonomasia is the name given a polygamist by his four wives in different towns: 'Seldom Seen Smith'.’
- ‘One was antonomasia, the usually derisive practice of describing an individual by a certain characteristic, then making it into a proper noun.’
- ‘Antonomasia is, then, a kind of theft, but one that reveals the thievery involved in the original act of naming.’
- ‘Darryl James, editor of RapSheet, presents Eminem with this antonomasia: ‘the Elvis of Rap’.’
- ‘Baseball, which has a penchant for antonomasia, has dubbed players the "Sultan of Swat" (Babe Ruth), "The Georgia Peach" (Ty Cobb), and the "Iron Horse" (Lou Gehrig).’
2The use of a proper name to express a general idea (e.g. a Scrooge for a miser).
- ‘Here we deal with a case of antonomasia of the first type.’
- ‘The antonomasia can also work the other way, with a proper name as a description - referring to a soldier as a Rambo, for instance, or calling an obsequious black man Uncle Tom.’
- ‘He blithely absolves this libel as an example of "antonomasia".’
- ‘Another type of antonomasia we meet when a common noun is still clearly perceived as a proper name.’
- ‘Most of the sources I've looked at restrict the term to use of a name as a generic, eg. calling someone a "Romeo" or a "Scrooge," though I have dim recollections of seeing in print "antonomasia" being used to describe the use of "coke" as "soft drink" or "levis" as "denim pants."’
Mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek, from antonomazein ‘name instead’, from anti- ‘against, instead’ + onoma ‘a name’.
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