an·​ton·​o·​ma·​sia | \ ˌan-tə-nō-ˈmā-zh(ē-)ə How to pronounce antonomasia (audio) , (ˌ)an-ˌtä-nə- \

Definition of antonomasia

: the use of a proper name to designate a member of a class (such as a Solomon for a wise ruler) also : the use of an epithet or title in place of a proper name (such as the Bard for Shakespeare)

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What's in a name? When it comes to "antonomasia," quite a bit. English speakers picked up that appellative term from Latin, but it traces back to Greek, descending from the verb antonomazein, meaning "to call by a new name," which itself developed from the Greek noun onoma, meaning "name." You may already be familiar with some other English "onoma" descendants, such as "onomatopoeia" (the naming of something in imitation of the sound associated with it), "polyonymous" (having multiple names), and "toponymy" (the place-names of a region). "Antonomasia" has been naming names in English since the mid-16th century.

Examples of antonomasia in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web One was antonomasia, the usually derisive practice of describing an individual by a certain characteristic, then making it into a proper noun. Lynda Robinson, Washington Post, 15 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'antonomasia.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of antonomasia

circa 1550, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for antonomasia

Latin, use of an epithet for a proper name, from Greek, from antonomazein to call by a new name, from anti- + onomazein to name, from onoma name — more at name

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Time Traveler for antonomasia

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The first known use of antonomasia was circa 1550

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Cite this Entry

“Antonomasia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Aug. 2022.

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