Name That '-nym': A Brief Introduction to Words and Names

22 Language-Related Terms That End in "-nym"

Language-related terms that end in -nym.

We've all played with words that have similar or opposite meanings, so no points for recognizing synonym* and antonym. And in the online world, almost everyone seems to rely on a pseudonym. But what about some of the lesser known -nyms (a suffix derived from the Greek word for "name" or "word")?

If you recognize more than five or six of these 22 terms without looking at the definitions, you're entitled to call yourself a genuine Nymskull.

Click on each term to visit a glossary page where you'll find additional examples and more detailed explanations.

  1. Acronym
    A word formed from the initial letters of a name (for example, NATO, from North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or by combining the initial letters of a series of words (radar, from radio detection and ranging).
  2. Allonym
    The name of a person (usually a historical person) assumed by a writer as a pen name. For example, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison published The Federalist Papers under the allonym Publius, a Roman consul.
  3. Antonym
    A word having a meaning opposite to that of another word. Antonym is the antonym of synonym.
  4. Aptronym
    A name that matches the occupation or character of its owner (such as Mr. Sweet, the owner of an ice cream parlor), often in a humorous or ironic way.
  5. Charactonym
    A name that suggests the personality traits of a fictional character, such as Mr. Gradgrind and M'Choakumchild, two unpleasant educators in the novel Hard Times, by Charles Dickens.
  6. Cryptonym
    A word or name that is secretly used to refer to a particular person, place, activity, or thing—such as "Radiance" and "Rosebud," the code names used by the Secret Service for the daughters of President Obama.
  1. Demonym
    A name for the people who live in a particular place, such as New Yorkers, Londoners, and Melburnians.
  2. Endonym
    A name used by a group of people to refer to themselves, their region, or their language, as opposed to a name given to them by other groups. For example, Deutschland is the German endonym for Germany.
  3. Eponym
    A word (such as cardigan) derived from the proper name of a real or mythical person or place (in this case, the Seventh Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell).
  4. Exonym
    A place name that isn't used by the people who live in that place. Vienna, for example, is the English exonym for the German and Austrian Wien.
  5. Heteronym
    A word that is spelled the same as another word but has a different pronunciation and meaning—such as the noun minute (meaning 60 seconds) and the adjective minute (exceptionally small or insignificant).
  6. Homonym
    A word that has the same sound or spelling as another word but differs in meaning. Homonyms include both homophones (such as which and witch) and homographs (such as "lead singer" and "lead pipe").
  1. Hypernym
    A word whose meaning includes the meanings of other words. For example, bird is a hypernym that includes more specific varieties, such as crow, robin, and blackbird.
  2. Hyponym
    A specific term that designates a member of a class. For example, crow, robin, and blackbird are hyponyms that belong to the broad class of bird.
  3. Metonym
    A word or phrase used in place of another with which it is closely associated. White House is a common metonym for the U.S. president and his or her staff.
  4. Mononym
    A one-word name (such as "Oprah" or "Bono") by which a person or thing is popularly known.
  5. Oronym
    A sequence of words (for example, "ice cream") that sounds the same as a different sequence of words ("I scream").
  6. Paronym
    A word derived from the same root as another word. Poet Robert Frost offers two examples: "Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired."
  7. Pseudonym
    A fictitious name assumed by an individual to conceal his or her identity. Silence Dogood and Richard Saunders were two of the pseudonyms used by Benjamin Franklin.
  1. Retronym
    A new word or phrase (such as snail mail or analog watch) created for an old object or concept whose original name has become associated with something else.
  2. Synonym
    A word having the same or nearly the same meaning as another word—such as bombed, loaded, and wasted, three of the hundreds of synonyms for drunk.
  3. Toponym
    A place name (such as Bikini Atoll, the site of nuclear weapons tests in the 1950s) or a word coined in association with the name of a place (such as bikini, a brief bathing suit).

* If you already knew that poecilonym is a synonym for synonym, go directly to the head of the class.