Word of the day – aptronym

An aptronym or aptonym is a name that relates to its owner’s profession or personality, often in a humorous or ironic way. For example, William Wordsworth (poet), Larry Speakes (presidential spokesman under Ronald Reagan) and Anna Smashnova (tennis player).

This word was apparently coined by Franklin P. Adams, an American newspaper columnist in 1938, according to this blog. There are more aptronyms here and here.

Names of characters in Dickens sometimes reflect their personalities or jobs: Scrooge, Uriah Heep, Gradgrind, Sweedlepipe, Honeythunder, Bumble, Pumblechook and Podsnap. Other aptronymic character names include Mrs. Malaprop in Richard Sheridan’s A School for Scandal, and Mistress Quickly in Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Is your name an aptronym, or do you know anyone with an aptronymic name?

This entry was posted in English, Language, Words and phrases.

5 Responses to Word of the day – aptronym

  1. Adam says:

    I once had a boss named Norbert Dweedle. He was a socially awkward, greasy, nerd who wore a bowtie.

  2. TJ says:

    Well I think the families’ names and surnames here are mostly derived from such aptronyms if I can say!
    My surname for example is “Shemaly” (or Shamali sometimes) and in Arabic it’s: الشمالي and it means “the one from the north.” According to some elders here this name came because our first ancestor who lived in Kuwait in the 1700’s was from Basrah in Iraq and people used to call him the “shemaly” meaning he who came from the north and so it went along as a family name for the next generations. There are lot of such names that went along like family names and I guess even in Europe.

    If Aptronym is meant to be just a nickname that comes after the name and not intended to be used a family name whatsoever, maybe here we don’t have much habit like that!

  3. Heming says:

    Sheakspeare’s Lord Belch – who indeed does burp a lot – would be a prime example… So are the English names Smith and Thatcher, come to think of it, and the German Schumacher.

    Because of the many homonyms in modern Norwegian, certain names derived from place names can become quite hillarious – such as a once well-known police sergeant named Wold (pronounced [vol:]), which in fact means “hill” but is heard as “violence”. The head of the fire departement of my home town during my childhood was “Svihus” (svì:hý:s), which literally means “scorched house”.

  4. AR says:

    Steve Jobs has quite a good career.

  5. balindsey says:

    Anyone remember Penn State football player Steve Smear from the late 1960s?

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