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in this phrase (They are going to call him John - after John, his grandfather). what is meant by (after John,)?

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Your sentence uses 'after' as a preposition. Here 'after' means 'the boy was given the same name as his grandfather, which is John.'

See definition 11 of after (preposition) in Collins:

  1. PREPOSITION.

To be named after someone means to be given the same name as them.
[British].

Phillimore Island is named after Sir Robert Phillimore.
He persuaded Virginia to name the baby after him.

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    I added the quoted definition instead of having a link-only reference. Not sure I agree that “after” is just British though. Plenty of AmE speakers use after in this sense.
    – Jim
    Mar 8, 2020 at 23:44

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