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I'm looking for a word which indicates that a person has adopted a quality suggested by their name, e.g. a person named Grace who is indeed graceful, or perhaps someone named Shepherd who has become a shepherd.

I have a strong notion that I once learned such a word, but I have forgotten it and have never re-discovered it.

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You're probably thinking of eponymous. Some people carp about how it should be used, but if you said "I'd like you to meet my eponymous wife Grace", it would be understood that you think your wife is "graceful" or "full of grace". –  FumbleFingers Jun 14 '13 at 21:13
For a multiple-word phrase, try true to one's name. Oddly I cannot find a good English-only reference, only translations, which suggests that it's a concept that's less common in English than in other cultures. –  congusbongus Jun 15 '13 at 3:57
@FumbleFingers, if someone said that to me I wouldn't understand it like that at all. My first instinct would be to interpret that as meaning Grace is somehow named after the speaker. To convey what you mean I would say something like my wife Grace, who lives up to her name. –  dbmag9 Jun 16 '13 at 9:25
I understood that, and wasn't offering the phrase as an answer to the OP's question. Rather I was commenting that, while eponymous is indeed a word, I wouldn't understand it as meaning what you've used it to mean. It may well be the single word with the closest meaning to what the OP wants, but I don't think it's sufficiently close to meet the OP's specification, as you put it. –  dbmag9 Jun 16 '13 at 16:08
A common idiom in Britain is to say something like 'We have a new nurse in the practice, Jane Lovely - Lovely by name and lovely by nature'. It is always said like this even if the name does not actually refer to someone's nature. E.g Let's say a new employee joins the firm with the surname Chubb , and it so happens that they are slightly on the heavy side. Almost certainly some wag is bound to remark, out of their earshot, Chubb by name and chubb by nature –  WS2 Dec 10 '14 at 0:45

2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted


... and some more characters to make it longer than 30.

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Interesting, this isn't exactly what I had in mind but seems a good enough fit. There are some very amusing examples on the linked Wikipedia article. I fear I may have invented the memory I describe in my question, I was sure there was some word to describe the process of becoming your name, whereas 'aptronym' describes the name itself... I fear it was an illusion, and 'aptronym' is a lovely enough word for you to have taught me! – Jun 16 '13 at 18:10
Hi Wool -- I completely understand the distinction you are making of "becoming" as it were an aptronym - I don't think there is a SW for that. –  Joe Blow Mar 25 at 12:01

I believe you may be thinking of Nominative determinism, a theory which describes a phenomenon where somebody's name significantly influences their job, status or personality.

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