Words ending -onym, -onymous, -onymy

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A number of terms with the ending –onym (-onymous, -onymy) are used to describe words in virtue of their relationship to other words. Probably the most common term in this group is synonym. A synonym is a word which has the same (or nearly the same) meaning as another word (in the same language): thus we may say that ‘enormous’ is a synonym of ‘huge’, that these two words are synonyms or synonymous, and that this example is an instance of synonymy. (For more see Synonym). The ending –onym comes from the Greek noun ὄνομα (onoma), ‘name’, ‘word’, while the first syllable (syn-) comes from the Greek preposition σύν (sun) ‘with’, ‘together’.

All the terms in this group resemble synonym in having forms which end -onymous and -onymy and in having their first part derived from Greek. The more common of them have their own page in AWE (see below), most are not much used outside the disciplines of grammar and linguistics, and some are not much used even within these disciplines.

Here is a list:

An antonym – the first part comes from the Greek preposition ὰντί (anti), ‘opposite’ – is a word which has the opposite meaning to another word; e.g., ‘high’ is an antonym of ‘low’, the two words are antonyms. (See also Antonym.)

A homonym – the first part comes from the Greek adjective ὁμός (homos), ‘same’ – is a word with the same spelling and/or same pronunciation as another word, but with a different meaning; e.g., the two words both spelt ‘bank’ are homonyms: one means ‘institution for the safekeeping of money’ and the other ‘ground beside a river’.

An eponym – the first part comes from the Greek preposition ἐπί (epi), ‘on’, ‘upon’, ‘over’ – is either a name (e.g., of a place or a literary work) which derives from the name of a (real or mythical) person or the name of the person who is the original of the derived name; e.g., ‘Leningrad’ is an eponym of 'Lenin', and 'Lenin' is the eponym of 'Leningrad', Odysseus is the eponymous hero of Homer’s Odyssey. (See also Eponym.)

A metonym - the first part comes from the Greek preposition μετά (meta), ‘with’, ‘after’ - is a word which refers to an attribute of something but is used to mean the thing itself; e.g., the sentence ‘The pen is mightier than the sword’ (meaning ‘Writers have more power than soldiers’) contains two examples of metonymy. (See further Metonymy.)

A paronym - the first part comes from the Greek preposition παρά (para) ‘from’, ‘beside’, ‘near’ – is either a word derived from another word and having a related meaning to it (e.g., ‘generosity’ is a paronym of ‘generous’) or a word derived from a foreign word with only slight changes (e.g., the English word ‘senate’ is a paronym of the Latin senatus).

An exonym - the first part comes from the Greek preposition ἐκ ἐξ (ek, ex) ‘from’, ‘out of’, ‘outside of - is a name given to a place by foreigners; e.g., ‘Naples’ is an exonym: it is the English name for the city known to its inhabitants as Napoli.

A heteronym – the first part comes from the Greek adjective ἕτερος (heteros), ‘other’ - is one of two or more words which are spelt alike but pronounced differently; e.g., ‘lead’ (the metal), pronounced IPA: / lɛd/ and ‘lead’ (the verb, meaning ‘to guide, be at the head of’), pronounced IPA: /liːd/.

A hyponym – the first part comes from the Greek preposition ὑπό (hupo), ‘under’ - is a word with a more specific meaning than another word; e.g., ‘scarlet’ is a hyponym of ‘red’, ‘screwdriver’ is a hyponym of ‘tool’. Where two types of item are related as species and genus, the word denoting the species is a hyponym of the word denoting the genus.

A hypernym – the first part comes from the Greek preposition ὑπέρ (huper), ‘over’, above’ - is a word with a more general meaning than another word; e.g. ‘red’ is a hypernym of ‘scarlet’, ‘tool’ is a hypernym of ‘screwdriver’. Hyponym and hypernym are correlative terms.

A meronym – the first part comes from the Greek noun μέρος (meros), ‘portion’, ‘part’ - is a word denoting something which is part of something larger; e.g., ‘toe’ is a meronym of ‘foot’.

A holonym – the first part comes from the Greek adjective ὅλος (holos), ‘whole’, ‘entire’ – is a word denoting something of which something else is a part; e.g., ‘foot’ is a holonym of ‘toe’. Meronym and holonym are correlative terms.

Note on pronunciation: the pattern of stress is identical for all the members of this group The –onym form has the stress on the first syllable – synonym, metonym – while the –onymous and –onomy forms have the stress on the third syllable from the end – synonymous, metonymous, synonymy, metonymy.