on·​o·​mas·​tics ˌä-nə-ˈma-stiks How to pronounce onomastics (audio)
plural in form but singular or plural in construction
: the science or study of the origins and forms of words especially as used in a specialized field
: the science or study of the origin and forms of proper names of persons or places
: the system underlying the formation and use of words especially for proper names or of words used in a specialized field
onomastician noun

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The original word for the science of naming was "onomatology," which was adopted from French in the mid-19th century. About a century later, however, people began referring to the science as "onomastics," a term based on the Greek verb onomazein ("to name"). Like many sciences, onomastics is itself composed of special divisions. An onomastician might, for example, study personal names or place names, names of a specific region or historical period, or even the character names of a particular author, like Charles Dickens.

Word History

First Known Use

1904, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of onomastics was in 1904


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Cite this Entry

“Onomastics.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/onomastics. Accessed 23 May. 2024.

Kids Definition


singular or plural noun
on·​o·​mas·​tics ˌän-ə-ˈmas-tiks How to pronounce onomastics (audio)
: the study of the proper names of people and places

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