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While the word christen means "to baptise" or "to make Christian", in another sense, it has shed its religious connotations to simply mean "to name" or even "use for the first time". Is there any other word which is based on the name (or epithet) of a god or prophet, (or possibly some other significant religious figure) with at least one of its definitions devoid of religious connotations?

[Words like good (from god which is too generic), august (from Augustus, a senate-approved god), and other similarly borderline cases are to be excused.]

Edit: I'm not looking for synonyms of the word christen or words in common usage which come from religion. They have to be based on names.

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closed as not constructive by FumbleFingers, Kristina Lopez, MετάEd, Mitch, Matt Эллен Jan 17 '13 at 13:11

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Name? Are you limiting this to names of various gods that have derivatives that are not religious anymore? –  Mitch Jan 16 '13 at 15:57
    
'Boston Brahmin'. 'Good-bye' (from "God be with you"). An minced oath based on 'God' or 'Jesus': goldurn, jeez. –  Mitch Jan 16 '13 at 16:02
    
@Mitch hmm, I'm not sure that Brahmin counts. "Jeez" is simply taking the lord's name in vain, yes? :) Jon Hanna's got a number of hits; I hadn't taken the bewildering array of the Greek/Roman pantheon into sufficient consideration when formulating this question. –  coleopterist Jan 16 '13 at 16:05
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Why doesn't 'Brahmin' not count? It's from a religious name, and it has no religious connotation in that context. Why is beng 'in vain' not a fit? It's a religious name (modified) with no religious connotation. What more criteria do you have that exclude these? –  Mitch Jan 16 '13 at 16:40
    
@Mitch I've added in Brahmin as coming from the god, Brahma. Thanks. –  coleopterist Jan 16 '13 at 17:42

3 Answers 3

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Edit: This first bit was after my not grokking the question. I'm leaving it anyway. Proper answer follows


Christen does not mean "to make Christian", it means "to anoint with oil", which is part of the Christian naming rite. (Christ is from the same root, meaning "anointed one").

Sain is sometimes used of people being named in religious rites without it being specific to any particular religion, and is popular as such in some Neopagan circles (pardon the pun), though ironically this in origin was specifically Christian, since it refers to the sign of the cross being made and is cognate with sign.

Clerk originally meant a member of the clergy (where we would now use cleric that was deliberately introduced to avoid confusion). It comes from a time when being literate and being clergy was essentially one and the same within Christendom, and indeed being literate remained the legal definition of clergy (saving you from execution for some crimes) well after this was no longer the case.

(Incidentally, while the Old English for both god and good was spelt god, these were two heteronyms, pronounced differently and coming from different roots. It wouldn't even have made much sense to say "God is good" at the time, as it didn't have the absolute sense it has now — if you'd said "God is good" people would have wondered what you were saying He was good for.)


Now for the actual answer to the question intended:

Some adjectives from the names of gods, that no longer refer solely to the gods in question:

Jovial, martial, saturnine, mercurial, erotic, anterotic (whether this is formed as not-erotic or from Anteros is unclear), chaotic.

The prefix geo- is from Gaia, and chrono- from Chronos.

Edit: Some more:

Hermaphrodite, dionysian, cereal, hygiene, echo, venereal, museum, herculean, volcano, nemesis, morphine & helium.

If we allow heroes, monsters, etc. as well as gods:

Oedipal, sisyphean, narcissist, siren, mentor and finally titanic if we allow a group of gods, as well individuals.

Some uses of Christian figures as expletives have become detached from their origin, so while someone who says "god-damn" would know where it came from, someone might say bloody or zounds not knowing they come from "by Our Lady" and "God's wounds" respectively. ("Our Lady" is a title used as a name, so whether you choose to count that or not, I don't know).

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Thank you. I was quoting Wiktionary :) I'm interested in words like christen which stem from names of religious figures and yet also carry non-religious definitions. Please let me know if my question is unclear on this point. –  coleopterist Jan 16 '13 at 15:22
    
Ah, I mis-read. I'm leaving sain since while I added it as an extra, it actually answers directly. I'm sure I can think of some others too. –  Jon Hanna Jan 16 '13 at 15:28
    
Sain appears to come from the Latin signo for sign. I'm looking for words like august which comes from the name of a Roman god named Augustus. –  coleopterist Jan 16 '13 at 15:33
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Ah, I can give you a few of those, all right. –  Jon Hanna Jan 16 '13 at 15:44

Here's a list including those in Jon's answer:

Christianity

  • Judas

Greek

  • Amuse
  • Aphrodisiac: Arousing or intensifying sexual desire (from the goddess, Aphrodite)
  • Apollonian: Clear, harmonious, and restrained. (from the god, Apollo)
  • Dionysian: wild, irrational, and undisciplined (from the god, Dionysus)
  • Echo: a reflected sound heard again from its originator (from the nymph, Echo)
  • Helium
  • Hermetic: Isolated, away from outside influence. (from the god, Hermes)
  • Morphine: A crystalline alkaloid extracted from opium (from the god, Morpheus)
  • Muse
  • Narcissist: A vain person (from Narcissus)
  • Nemesis: An archenemy (from the goddess, Nemesis)
  • Nymphomaniac
  • Odyssey: a long arduous journey (from the hero, Odysseus)
  • Panic: Overpowering fright, often affecting groups of people or animals. (from the Greek god, Pan)
  • Panacea
  • -phobia
  • Priapism: A painful and potentially harmful medical condition in which the erect penis (erection) does not return to its flaccid state (from the god, Priapus)

Hindu

  • Brahmin: A social and cultural elite, especially in the New England region of the USA. (from the god, Brahma)
  • Juggernaut: A literal or metaphorical force or object regarded as unstoppable, that will crush all in its path. (from the god, Jagannath)

Judaism

  • Nimrod: An idiot (from the "mighty hunter" Nimrod mentioned in Genesis)

Norse

  • Tuesday: Day of the week (from the god, Tyr)
  • Wednesday: Day of the week (from the god, Odin)
  • Thursday: Day of the week (from the god, Thor)
  • Friday: Day of the week (from the goddess, Freya/*Frigg*)

Roman

  • Aurora: An atmospheric phenomenon created by charged particles from the sun striking the upper atmosphere (from the goddess, Aurora)
  • Bacchanal: Engaged in drunken revels; drunken and riotous or noisy. (from the god, Bacchus)
  • Cereal: A type of grass (such as wheat, rice or oats) cultivated for its edible grains. (from the goddess, Ceres)
  • Cupidity
  • Fauna
  • Flora
  • Herculean: Extraordinary (regarding size, power, might, etc.) (from the hero/demigod, Hercules)
  • Genius
  • Janus
  • Jovial: Merry; cheerful and good-humored. (from the god, Jupiter)
  • Liberty
  • Martial: Of, relating to, or suggestive of war; warlike. (from the god, Mars)
  • Mercurial: Volatile; erratic; unstable; flighty; fickle or changeable in temperament. (from the god, Mercury)
  • Plutocrat
  • Saturnine: gloomy, depressed, dull (from the god, Saturn)
  • Saturday: Day of the week (from the god, Saturn)
  • Solar
  • Sylvan: wooded (from the god, Silvanus)
  • Terra-firma
  • Volcano
  • Virtue
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In English, the verb to christen has a sense of 'to confer a name upon'. It's one of those rare non-dative bitransitive verbs. I.e, like name and elect, christen has two objects, neither of which is an indirect object:

  • They named the baby Jesús.
  • We elected Mary president.
  • I hereby christen this ship the USS Fiscal Cliff.

The last sentence is a Performative use of christen, which may be the one sought.

If the person uttering that sentence is duly authorized, and if that speaker pronounces this utterance at the appropriate time and place (with the appropriate props and actions, as needed), then the speaker not only pronounces the utterance, but also, in saying it (see "illocutionary act"), the speaker causes the ship to be named the USS Fiscal Cliff, officially, on the record.

This is much like Christian baptism, though no font, faith, or fealty is implied. Names can be changed, after all, and this is a civil ritual.

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Who are these famous parents? I thought only Mary and Joseph named the baby Jesus, apart from in prayers. :) –  tchrist Jan 20 '13 at 1:44
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@tchrist since the spelling here is Jesús, there are indeed quite a few people of that name, not just the most famous ישוע or perhaps יְהוֹשֻׁעַ. –  Jon Hanna Jan 20 '13 at 2:03

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