Meaning of antonomasia in English:


Pronunciation /ˌantənəˈmeɪzɪə/ /anˌtɒnəˈmeɪzɪə/


mass noun
  • 1Linguistics
    The substitution of an epithet or title for a proper name (e.g. the Maid of Orleans for Joan of Arc).

    ‘Darryl James, editor of RapSheet, presents Eminem with this antonomasia: ‘the Elvis of Rap’.’
    • ‘A fine example of antonomasia is the name given a polygamist by his four wives in different towns: 'Seldom Seen Smith'.’
    • ‘One was antonomasia, the usually derisive practice of describing an individual by a certain characteristic, then making it into a proper noun.’
    • ‘Antonomasia is, then, a kind of theft, but one that reveals the thievery involved in the original act of naming.’
    • ‘Baseball, which has a penchant for antonomasia, has dubbed players the "Sultan of Swat" (Babe Ruth), "The Georgia Peach" (Ty Cobb), and the "Iron Horse" (Lou Gehrig).’
  • 2The use of a proper name to express a general idea (e.g. a Scrooge for a miser).

    ‘Another type of antonomasia we meet when a common noun is still clearly perceived as a proper name.’
    • ‘The antonomasia can also work the other way, with a proper name as a description - referring to a soldier as a Rambo, for instance, or calling an obsequious black man Uncle Tom.’
    • ‘He blithely absolves this libel as an example of "antonomasia".’
    • ‘Here we deal with a case of antonomasia of the first type.’
    • ‘Most of the sources I've looked at restrict the term to use of a name as a generic, eg. calling someone a "Romeo" or a "Scrooge," though I have dim recollections of seeing in print "antonomasia" being used to describe the use of "coke" as "soft drink" or "levis" as "denim pants."’


Mid 16th century via Latin from Greek, from antonomazein ‘name instead’, from anti- ‘against, instead’ + onoma ‘a name’.