Are there any grammatically correct examples of terms named after someone that are no longer capitalized?

I know certain brand names have become so ingrained in the lexicon that they are no longer capitalized - xerox, coke, hoover, etc. - but are there examples where the now-lower cased item is named after a person?

  • 1
    Related (but not duplicate): Should the word Boolean be capitalized?
    – F'x
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:02
  • Capitalization has nothing to do with grammar. It is a matter only of orthography.
    – tchrist
    Commented Feb 15, 2015 at 23:05
  • Today's bozo went though a Bozo phase before relapsing. Gore Vidal did his level best to help a coterie of Supreme Court Justices achieve smalldom in Myron
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 3:09
  • ... and list requests are a site nemesis.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 15, 2020 at 0:20

11 Answers 11


A quick Wikipedia search gave me these words: quixotic (I'm not sure this counts), draconian, and cesarean.

  • Off the top of my head: bloomers.
    – Marthaª
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 20:48
  • Thanks! I had no idea there was a Greek statesman named Draco for whom the word draconian was named after. Learn something new every day. Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 20:52
  • 14
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_eponyms offers some more examples: atlas, bowdlerize, braille, casanova, chauvinism, daguerreotype, derrick, diesel, gerrymander, guppy, jeremiad, jeroboam, leotard, lynch, martinet, mausoleum, narcissist, nicotine, poinsettia, sideburns, tarmac, teddy bear, sadism, saxophone, shrapnel, volt, watt.
    – John
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:14
  • Include masochism, baud and silhouette. Commented Feb 16, 2015 at 0:12
  • In British English at least 'to hoover' means to use a vacuum cleaner. William Hoover's company was, of course, eponymous.
    – BoldBen
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 1:21

All units of measurement named after scientists are, when used in English, in lowercase. So, you can add to your list: kelvin, joule, ampere, henry, newton, hertz, pascal, watt, coulomb, volt, farad, ohm, siemens, weber, tesla, becquerel, gray, sievert, and others.

  • 2
    Though the SI symbols derived from them are in uppercase.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 13:14

Also boycott and euclidean (as in geometry), although that latter one usually is still capitalized.

  • I didn't know boycott was named after anyone, neat. Although I don't recall ever seen the Euclidean in "Euclidean geometry" in lower case. Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 20:53
  • @Scott Mitchell Yeah, I didn't know it either, strange because the episode after which the verb is coined happened fairly recently, in the 1880s.
    – Uticensis
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 23:31
  • In Ireland, Boycott is part of history we're taught in primary school.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 5, 2011 at 13:13

Yes, just because the origin of a word is originally a person's name doesn't automatically mean it is always capitalised.

For example, a "spoonerism" is a type of speech error that allegedly somebody called Spooner tended to make. A "nosy parker" is somebody exhibiting a behaviour that allegedly somebody called "Parker" had.

Notice how in these examples, and unlike cases such as "Chomskyan", "Thatcherite", we're not naming something after that person's deliberate doctrine/invention.

There may also be a factor involved of time and/or how much the person in question is still known to contemporary speakers (which may be why we'd tend to write "sadistic" rather than "Sadistic", for example).


The diesel. A guillotine. I guess you're looking for nouns without suffixes only?

To lynch (John was quicker). cesarean. Wow, never heard about that:

goethite |ˌgoʊθaɪt|
a dark reddish-brown or yellowish-brown mineral consisting of oxyhydroxide iron, occurring typically as masses of fibrous crystals.
ORIGIN early 19th cent.: from the name of J.W. von Goethe + -ite

tsar/czar – ORIGIN from Russian tsar’, representing Latin Caesar.

Found a series: einsteinium, nobelium, etc.

That's fun.

  • Elements in the periodic table are lower cased by convention, so they were never initially capitalized. Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:41
  • Not in my native language ;-) you're right, that's why I wrote 'series'.
    – thyx
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 21:51
  • 3
    This answer may have some applicable words, but it doesn't read well at all.
    – JYelton
    Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 23:40

The one I can think of off the top of my head are "cartesian," as in cartesian plane, named after Rene Descartes. My second though was "hermaphrodite," but that's not exactly named after a person...

I also found a really big list of these "eponyms." Many of them are not capitalised.


Have fun! :)

  • 1
    Thanks for sharing. Interesting side-note: I don't recall ever not seeing Cartesian capitalized, at least not in my university textbooks. Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 0:23
  • I guess cartesian goes both ways, then. I rarely see it capitalised. Weird.
    – kitukwfyer
    Commented Feb 23, 2011 at 0:51

I found out two last night, watching Melvyn Bragg's excellent series about the English language.

  • "orrery" was named for the Earl of Orrery, who funded the making of the first modern one.

  • "johnson" for the male organ, reportedly named for Samuel Johnson during Jane Austen's time because 'he would stand up to anybody'.

  • 3
    If we can count orrery, we should probably count sandwich too (named after the Earl of Sandwich).
    – TMN
    Commented Mar 7, 2011 at 13:47

A herculean task (only capitalized if it refers to one of the actual tasks of Hercules)


The common word "guy", which comes from Guy Fawkes (or, more specifically, burned effigies of him)

Named from Guy Fawkes (1570-1606), an English Catholic hanged for his role in the Gunpowder Plot.

  1. (colloquial) A male
    A new guy started at the office today.




Try some personal names:
(Oh, peter, too)

louis |ˈluwəs| |ˈluwi| (also louis d'or )
noun (pl. same)
a gold coin issued in France between 1640 and 1793.
• another term for napoleon (sense 2).
ORIGIN from Louis, the name of many kings of France.

joe |ʤoʊ|
noun informal
1 coffee. [ORIGIN: 1940s: of unknown origin.]
2 an ordinary man: the average joe. [ORIGIN: mid 19th cent.: nickname for the given name Joseph; compare with Joe Blow.]

john |dʒɑn|
noun informal
1 a toilet.
2 a prostitute's client.
ORIGIN early 20th century (sense 2): from the given name John, used from late Middle English as a form of address to a man, or to denote various occupations, including that of priest (late Middle English) and policeman (mid 17th century).

Other physical units, e.g.

henry |ˈhɛnri| (abbreviation: H)
noun (plural henries |ˈhɛnriz| or henrys |ˈhɛnriz|) Physics
the SI unit of inductance, equal to an electromotive force of one volt in a closed circuit with a uniform rate of change of current of one ampere per second.
ORIGIN late 19th cent.: named after Joseph Henry (1797–1878), the American physicist who discovered the phenomenon.

  • Don't be a dick... Commented Feb 22, 2011 at 22:53
  • All physical units named after a person are lowercase when spelled out (to avoid confusion with the person) but uppercase abbreviations.
    – mgb
    Commented May 30, 2011 at 22:12
  • Joe as in coffee (which wasn't named after Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels who repealed the officers wine mess) brings us to grog, which was named after Captain Grog, who diluted the British Navy's rum ration by 50%. Coffee joe is probably a shortening of jamoke, which is a shortening of Java-Mocha, where the best stuff came from in the 1930s.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Feb 10, 2020 at 2:00

I was told the only legitimate and recognizable math term named after a person that is definitively no longer (or maybe never was) capitalized is the word "abelian", named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Abel, meaning commutative essentially.

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