1. Education
Send to a Friend via Email

charactonym

By

charactonym

Three well-known charactonyms (with the names of the authors who created them)

Definition:

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. Adjective: charactonymic.

See also:

Etymology:

Blend of "character" + the Greek word for "name" or "word"

Examples and Observations:

  • "The entry under Remus Lupin, [J.K. Rowling] said, missed the opportunity to comment on the etymology of the name as a 'double allusion' to the character’s being a werewolf, since in Roman mythology Remus was raised by wolves, and Lupin derived from lupine."
    (Anemona Hartocollis, "Rowling Testifies Against Lexicon Author." The New York Times, April 15, 2008)


  • "In the final analysis [of John Updike's novel Rabbit, Run], Rabbit's lack of inner resources causes his inability to change and to embrace life, leaving him in a state of perpetual male angst (n.b., Updike's surname choice of Angstrom)."
    (Mahala Yates Stripling, Bioethics and Medical Issues in Literature. Greenwood, 2005)


  • "[Little Orphan] Annie's benefactor was 'Daddy' Warbucks, who, as his name implied, was a munitions tycoon if not an outright war profiteer."
    (Stephen Hess, The Ungentlemanly Art: A History of American Political Cartoons. Macmillan, 1968)


  • "At the beginning of the novel Ivanhoe, Sir Walter [Scott] wrote:
    DEDICATORY EPISTLE
    TO
    THE REV. DR. DRYASDUST, F.A.S.
    Dr. Dryasdust, however, was the writer's own creation. He pretends to dedicate the novel to him for having supplied him with dry historical details. Since then the term is used to describe a person devoted to dry, uninteresting details. Dryasdust--dry as dust--is obviously a charactonym (a name that is descriptive of a character trait)."
    (Anu Garg, The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado Or Two: The Hidden Lives and Strange Origins of Words. Penguin, 2007)


  • "Perhaps the most widely used kind of charactonym involves personality names. . . . [Ben] Jonson uses animal names in their Italian form for characters in Volpone as well as Italian words with derogatory translations in English, as Castrone (eunuch) and Adorgyno (hermophrodite). John Gay uses seventeenth-century slang and underworld jargon for names in The Beggar's Opera that describe not only characters' behavior but their occupations. Filch, Jeremy Twicher, Betty Sly, Nimming Ned, and Ben Budge all bear names that suggest their occupations as thieves."
    (George Austin Test, Satire: Spirit and Art. The University of Florida Press, 1991)
Pronunciation: KAR-ik-tuh-nim
Also Known As: characteronym

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.