The Magic World of Names

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Words from Names

Estimates indicate that at least 50,000 words in our language are derived from names. Words like sandwich, cardigan, and boycott come quickly to mind. Many of these names are so firmly entrenched that many people do not even realize they are derived from names. Many words have a colorful history. Here are a few:
 

lynch

  to execute without due process of law, specifically, to hang. Derived from Charles Lynch (1736-1796), Virginia planter and justice of the peace who used illegal methods against Tories.
     
    clown

pants

 

Derived from pantaloon which comes from the French pantalon which in turn comes from the Italian pantaloni. Pantaloni is derived from a masked character in Italian comedy which comes from Pantaleone, the patron saint of Venice who apparently wore tight-fitting trousers. Ultimately, the name goes back to the Greek name Pantaleon, meaning all lion. In modern Italian Pantalone can also mean a taxpayer.
     

shrapnel

  Now refers to fragments from a high-explosive shell. Originally developed by General Henry Shrapnel (1761-1842) of the British Army.

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Quiz on Words from Names

Pennsylvania   flower
Below, we have selected 20 examples of names that have become associated in our language with people, products or even a fictional character. Our language is the richer for the names that have become words. Take the quiz and see how many you can accurately identify. There are a couple of difficult ones. So, if you get a score of 15 or more, you are doing very well.

Take the quiz.

toilet   flask
 

Common First Names and Their Meanings

We all use a number of first names such as Paul, Peter, Joseph, and David in everyday conversation. But do you ever stop to consider the original meanings? You may be surprised at some. How many can you answer correctly?

Take the online version of the quiz.
The rock
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Tailor

The occupation of tailor is a common one in many cultures and has become a common surname. Below are listed common surnames in our country that mean "tailor" in another language. Can you identify the original language?

Take the online version of the quiz.
Tailor
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John

The name John comes from the Hebrew, Yochannan, YOE-CHAN-an (the ch is pronounced like the ch in loch as in Loch Lommond) and can be translated as either "Gift of God" or "God has been gracious." John has been the most common name in English-speaking countries for several centuries. Surnames derived from John include: Jackson, Johnson, Jens, Jenks, Jones, Hancock, and many others.

In other countries there are other variations from the original Hebrew, Yochanan. In addition, there may be several variations in the same country. Thus, in Germany we can find Hans, Hansel, Johann, and Johannes.

Some of the names below may be more familiar than others. Can you match them up correctly?

Take the online version of the quiz.
John
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Comments can be directed to edlawson@netsync.net

Artwork by Penny Williams-Yaqub, except for clipart used in the 'Quiz on Words from Names' section

Website Design by Christopher C. Taverna (Academic Information Technology, SUNY Fredonia)

For further information on names of all kinds, go to the American Name Society site at: http://www.wtsn.binghamton.edu/ANS/

For a comprehensive resource for given names and their meanings, categorized by various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, go to: Baby Names

Last Modified 01/16/2008


Home | Biography | Recent Publications | Book Reviews
Russian Names | Azeri Names | Estonian Names
World of Names | Name Factors | B-29 Bomber Names in the Pacific
Library of Congress Interview | Bible Names | Greek Names | Tatar Names | Comments on Saipan: The War Diary of John Ciardi

 
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