Perhaps You Didn’t Know, But These 10 Common Words Were Named After People

One day you are an average person and suddenly, the very next day, your name becomes an item in a dictionary. An Eponym is a person after whom an invention, phenomenon, or discovery is named.  Many Eponyms have become brand names, while many have come from books. Many historical eponyms are also based on mythological or religous persons. Today we look at the origins of the most famous eponyms, the ones that are used on a daily basis.


Named after Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), the term now describes refusing to do something as a form of protest.  Charles C. Boycott was himself boycotted back in 1880, in Ireland, during the “Land War”.

The harvest was poor that year, and land agent Boycott, representing the absentee landlord John Crichton, 3rd Lord Erne, offered the tenants 10% off their rent. They demanded 25%, which the Lord refused.

Boycott than tried to evict some of the tenants from their homes, which led to a pact among the other farmers in the area, who refused to take over farms where previous tenants had been evicted, therefore creating losses for the landowner.

Caricature of Charles Boycott by Spy (Leslie Ward) / Photo: Wikipedia


Caesar salad

A famous salad consisting of romaine lettuce, croutons, and parmesan cheese with dressing made from olive oil, garlic, raw egg yolks, anchovies and dijon mustard, named after the Italian Chef Caesar Cardini (1896-1956).

Caesar salad / Photo: Shutterstock 


Named after Louis Braille (1809-1852), who went blind as a child. The raised alphabet of his day was unsatisfactory as far as Braille was concerned and therefore led him to search for other solutions.

That came from a military code called “night writing“ which had been developed by Charles Barbier to enable soldiers to read messages in the dark. Because it was hard to learn, Barbier’s code did not catch on with military organizations. Barbier subsequently met Braille, who simplified Barbier’s system, and braille became an widely accepted writing system.

Braille text / Photo: Shutterstock 



Invented to remind listeners of the sound of an annoying insect, the name Paparazzo was picked by Frederico Fellini for a character in the movie La Dolce Vita who was a gossip writer and newspaper photographer. Today the term refers to all independent photographers who invade the privacy of celebrities and sell sensational photos to tabloid periodicals.

Paparazzi / Photo: Shutterstock

Murphy’s Law

“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

The notion that one should be prepared for the worst possible scenario might have been linked to the occupation of Captain Edward Murphy (1919-1990), who was an aerospace engineer who worked on safety-critical systems. Nevertheless, as we all know, Murphy’s Law is equally applicable to daily life. Things simply go wrong at the worst possible moment.

Murphy’s Law / Photo: Shutterstock



Nicotine got its name from the French ambassador, diplomat, and scholar, Jean Nicot (1530-1600). On a mission to Portugal, where he was sent by King Henry II to negotiate the marriage of the French princess  Margaret of Valois to King Sebastian of Portugal, he became familiar with tobacco, which he very successfully introduced to the French royal court.

Before nicotine was associated with a particular chemical in tobacco, the name Nicotiana referred to the whole plant, which was considered to be good for smokers‘ health. No need to emphasize that tobacco soon turned into a global fashion.

Jean Nicot / Photo: Wikipedia


Narcissism refers to a person who, with great egoism, is interested in and admires only himself.  The term is linked to Greek mythology, based on the story of the handsome Narcissus, who fell in love with himself when he spotted his own reflection in water.

Sigmund Freud used the term in his writings on psychology. Narcissistic personality disorder is today listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Narcissus by Caravaggio / Photo: Wikipedia


Toyota – the Japanese multinational automotive manufacturer and the world’s largest car maker – is an interesting example of an eponym.

The company was founded by Kiichiro Toyoda in 1937. Originally, the cars were sold under the name Toyoda, but because of a numerology issue arising from the fact that it takes 8 brush strokes to write the name Toyota in Japanese, the name was changed. Number eight is considered a lucky number in much of the Orient.

Kiichirō Toyoda / Photo: Wikipedia 

Caesarean Section or C-section

Linked to the name Julius Caesar, who supposedly was born by Caesarean Section. The history of this medical procedure, though, dates back more than two thousand years, before Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC.

There are reports of a procedure to open the bellies of mothers from even earlier times – as in, for example, the birth of Bindusara (emperor of India), in 320BC, when his mother accidentally consumed poison and died.

In the initial, dark days of the procedure, the survival rate for mothers undergoing the C-section was very low. With the advance of medicine, Caesarean Section paradoxically came to be regarded as a solution for risky births.

Statue of Julius Caesar / Photo: Shutterstock 


The popular and hated adult-figure doll with unnaturally idealised proportions was first manufactured in 1959 by Mattel, Inc. and credited to Ruth Handler, who named the doll after her daughter Barbara. When Barbie‘s counterpart came into the picture, he got his name from Handler’s son, Kenneth.

Barbie doll / Photo: Shutterstock

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