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May 17, 2021
This week’s theme
Eponyms

This week’s words
Hoyle
Houdini
tawdry
McDonaldization
pooh-bah

Hoyle
Art: James Latham (c. 1696-1747)

Previous week’s theme
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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

When I’m being interviewed or when I take questions at the end of a talk, usually one of the questions is about my favorite word.

I respond that I do not play favorites with words. They all are fascinating to me. You meet someone on the street and they may appear to be the most plain-looking person. You might think: What could be interesting about them anyway? Once you get to know them, once you learn their background and what paths they took to reach where they are, you may have a different opinion.

It’s the same with words. You may take any everyday word but once you get to know its history -- we call it etymology -- you realize there’s no everyday word. A window is, literally, wind’s eye.

I don’t have favorite words, but I can tell you my favorite category of words: eponyms. An eponym is a word coined after someone’s name, from Greek ep- (after) + -onym (name). There are thousands of eponyms in the English language, words that are in everyday use (boycott) and words that are relatively uncommon (pasquinade).

This week we’ll look at five eponyms, coined after people from fact and fiction.

Hoyle

PRONUNCIATION:
(hoyl)

MEANING:
noun:
1. A rule book.
2. Rules.

ETYMOLOGY:
After Edmond Hoyle (1672?-1769), British writer on games. Earliest documented use: 1906. The word is typically used in the phrase according to Hoyle, meaning strictly following rules and regulations.

USAGE:
“Considering the underhanded tactics he used in that election ... but medieval Hungarian aristocrats don’t fight according to Hoyle.”
Theodora Goss; The Sinister Mystery of the Mesmerizing Girl; Saga Press; 2020.

See more usage examples of Hoyle in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A change in perspective is worth 80 IQ points. -Alan Kay, computer scientist (b. 17 May 1940)

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