is a person (real or fictitious) whose name has become identified with a particular object or activity.
One of the first cases was in second millennium BC, when the Assyrians named each year after a high official (limmu).
And in ancient Greece too, the leader of a tribe gave his name to it (as Achaeus for Achaeans, or Dorus for Dorians).
Also, the eponym archon was the highest magistrate in Athens and had a yearly charge, and every year was named after the elected one (i.e.: the year 594 BC was named after Solon).
But places and towns too could be named after an important figure: Peloponnesus derives its name from Pelops.
In Rome, the two annual consuls could give different names to the same year.
The use is today very frequent in science, notably in medicine and in astronomy.
It is important to stress that in correct usage the word applies to the person rather than to the object or the name itself.
In the latter cases, use the adjective epynomic.
Here is a list of notable eponyms:
- Amelia Bloomer (1818-1894), popularizer of modest, practical trousers for women
- Thomas Bowdler (1754-1825), published an edition of Shakespeare without words or expressions unsuitable to family reading, hence bowdlerize
- Louis Antoine de Bougainville - French navigator who found the bougainvillea plant
- Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott (1832-1897)
- Louis Braille (1809-1852) - the braille writing for blind
- Professor Robert Wilhelm Bunsen (1811-1899) - Bunsen burner
- General Ambrose Burnside had distinctive whiskers
- Thomas Crapper British inventor of the flushing toilet; previously 'crap' meant the husk of grain, and Crapper was an occupational name like Thresher.
- Thomas Derrick (c. 1600), British hangman
- Rudolf Diesel - the diesel engine
- Doily family (c. 1700)
- Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) - the fahrenheit scale
- Luigi Galvani (1737-1798), discovered the Galvanic response of muscles to electricity. The process of galvanization is also named after him.
- Dr. Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814) - advocate of what came to be called the guillotine,
- William Henry Hoover (1849-1932) vacuum cleaner
- Jules Léotard
- Maussollus - mausoleum, a monumental tomb
- Franz Mesmer (1734-1815) - mesmerism, hypnotise
- Molotov (1890-1986) - Molotov cocktail
- Joachim Neander (1650-1680), poet, for whom the Neanderthal (Valley) was named, and thus the Neanderthal fossil humans found there
- Charles Ponzi (1877-1949) - Ponzi scheme, a kind of fraud
- Vidkun Quisling (1887-1945), Norwegian traitor
- Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, or, the Marquis de Sade, whose writings gave the name to sadism.
- Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, one of the first to write of the pleasures of pain and humiliation, now called masochism
- John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who nibbled meat between slices of bread while playing cards
- Adolphe Sax - the saxophone, a musical instrument
- Henry S. Shrapnel (1761-1842) - Shrapnel
- Etienne de Silhouette (1709-1767) - Silhouette
- William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) - see Spoonerism
- Alessandro Volta - the volt, a unit of electromotive force
- James Watt (1736-1819) - the watt, a unit of power
- Mae West (1893-1980), busty actress for whom the flotation safety vest was named.