The Merriam-Webster Dictionary site is an epicurean and sometimes mercurial presentation of language that tantalizes even the most Draconian and martinet-ish of word lovers. A case in point: The delightful “Eponym Quiz,” which tests your knowledge of many of the words in the previous sentence that are based on the names of people. This article in the Columbia Journalism Review discusses well-known – and more obscure – eponyms. Here’s a sample:
In traditional usage an “eponym” is something that has loaned its name to something else. By extension, in everyday usage and many dictionaries, the “eponym” is also the thing that borrowed the name.
Some eponyms have retained the capitalization of their namesakes, such as “Bakelite” (1909), a trademark for the first synthetic plastic, created by Leo Baekeland. Most have lost their capitalization, though some are recognizable as deriving from names. For example, “béchamel” sauce, named for the Marquis Louis de Béchamel, a steward to Louis XIV of France in the late 17th century. The sauce had probably been brought to France at least a hundred years earlier, but the Marquis got naming rights. (The Oxford English Dictionary says it first appeared in English in 1789 spelled “bishemel.”)