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Speaking Better English - Antonomasia

Updated: May 25, 2021

Antonomasia What is it, and how and when do you use it in spoken English
Speaking Better English - Antonomasia

An Antonomasia is a literary term in which a descriptive phrase is used to replace a person’s name. An Antonomasia can range from a gentle light-hearted nickname to an epic name.

For instance: my sister was always known as "Fairy" because of her stomping around especially on the stairs.

Have you found Mr Right yet? Not about the person’s name being Right but the right sort of person, or better the best person for her.

Another example might be calling your lover - Cassanova, “Is Cassanova coming over tonight” A mother talking to her daughter asking whether her boyfriend is coming over that night.

Antonomasia can provide someone with a strong epithet which further celebrates and memorializes their great deeds. In advertising and pop culture, such wording can also further celebrate the famous, such as The Beatles as “The Fab Four.”

Uses for antonomasia vary slightly depending on the time period. In the past, antonomasia would be used to designate class members, as oftentimes people’s names were linked to their professions.

The word is from the Greek antonomasía, a derivative of antonomázein, “to call by a new name.”

Although we find most uses of an Antonomasia in literature in a conversation between two people the Antonomasia turns up quite frequently using a particular “nickname” for a particular person or persons, rather than referring to the person by their full name.

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