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For other uses, see Namesake (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with eponym.

Namesake is a term used to characterize a person, place, thing, quality, action, state, or idea that has the same, or a similar, name to another[1] – especially (but not exclusively) if the person or thing is actually named after another, rather than merely sharing the name of another.[2][3]

For example, if a person, place, or thing has the same name as another – especially if they are named after another person, place, or thing, then the one that is named after the other, i.e., the recipient of the naming, is said to be the namesake of the name source. However, usage can go in the other direction, too, with the namesake referring to the source: Merriam-Webster defines it as: "one that has the same name as another; especially : one who is named after another or for whom another is named".[4]

The earliest use reported in the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1635. Dictionaries[which?] suggest that the word probably comes from "name's sake", "for one's name('s) sake", for "name sake".


The term namesake was first recorded in 1635, referring to a place with the same name as another.[1] Among other recordings, a 1646 usage was carried through in an 1806 publication, entitled A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language.[5] Modern-day usage has expanded to several uses for the term.[6]


Naming a child after a relative, friend, or well-known person is a fairly common practice. In the case of sons named for their father this can necessitate "Jr.", "III'", and other name suffixes in order to distinguish between individuals – especially when both father and son become famous. Use of a namesake's name in a leadership position may indicate certain things, usually referring to certain traits of the namesake, such as in the use of papal regnal names.[citation needed]

Some commercial entities and products are named after their creators, such as the Trump Tower and Ford Motor Company. Items are also named after people associated with them, such as the teddy bear. This is especially the case with scientific discoveries and theories, such as Gibbs free energy. When the receiver name merely is derived from the source name without an additional "sake" connection, such usage more accurately may be called an eponym rather than a namesake.[clarification needed]

Discrepancies in meaning (US usage)[edit]

There has been some discrepancy as to whether the name source or the name recipient takes the term namesake in American English usage. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, the only definition of a namesake is one that is named after another.[7] In other words, the name recipient takes the term namesake, for example:

  • "I was named after my grandfather. I am his namesake."
  • "Julian's Castle is Julian's namesake restaurant."

The Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary are not so restrictive. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a namesake is a person or thing having the same name as another, while Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines namesake as "one that has the same name as another; especially one who is named after another or for whom another is named,"[8] allowing such usage as: "I met a person who happened to have the same name as I. We are namesakes."

By defining namesake as "for whom another is named", Merriam-Webster's Dictionary allows the term to be used in reference to the name source as in:[8] "I was named after my grandfather; he is my namesake."

When using a dictionary or style guide that allows both usages of namesake as being correct, this ambiguity may be resolved by contrasting namesake as the name recipient with the terms eponym or namegiver as the source which provides the name. However, note that The American Heritage Dictionary states that eponym can also mean, " A word or name derived from a proper noun."[9]

Examples of namesakes[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Astral bodies[edit]

Commercial products and entities[edit]

Fictional characters[edit]



Place names[edit]

Numerous place names are namesakes. These are but a few examples.

Professional examples[edit]

Scientific terms[edit]

These are but a few of the many chemical, electrical, and physical terms that are namesakes:


Namesake cataloguing[edit]

Casual or accidental identification of personal namesakes can occur in daily life via a number of sources, including: dictionaries of biography, internet search engines, newspaper births/deaths/marriages announcements, telephone directories, etc.

There are some notable examples of deliberate searching for and identification of non-related personal namesakes.

  • Starting with a drunken wager, British comedian Dave Gorman used a wide variety of methods to find namesakes, an exercise which then evolved into a 2001 stage show Are You Dave Gorman? and was subsequently adapted as a book and television series.[10]
  • US actor/filmmaker Jim Killeen used the Google search engine to find personal namesakes for his documentary Google Me (2007) [11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). 2009. 
  2. ^ "Namesake". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2008. 
  3. ^ "Namesake". American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved 10 November 2012. 
  4. ^ "Namesake". Merriam-Webster. 
  5. ^ Walker, John (1806). A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language. Oxford University: J. Johnson, G. Wilkie and J. Robinson, G. Robinson, T. Cadell and W. Davies. 
  6. ^ "Namesake." Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved: August 12, 2008.
  7. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary Entry: namesake". The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Kyff, Rob (October 3, 2007). "Don't Forsake Meaning of Namesake". The Word Guy. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  9. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary Entry: eponym". The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. 2015. Retrieved February 7, 2016. 
  10. ^ "Are You Dave Gorman a.k.a. The Dave Gorman Collection". Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  11. ^ "Google Me". December 2012.