Tess Trueheart

Aptronyms, Charactonyms, or Euonyms

Is your fictional novel suffering from too many characters? If your novel has a lively spirit, you can make your character’s names easy to remember by using aptronyms and exploit the Baker–baker paradox. The word aptronym—also aptonym, charactonym, or euonym—means “apt name,” and refers to person or character whose name matches his or her occupation or personality. The word was coined in the mid-19th century by newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams, but the idea goes far back in the history of literature. Aristotle even had a name for them: ou ta tuchonta onomata, or "purposeful names." Notable examples include the quick-tempered and impatient Hotspur in Shakespeare’s King Henry IV or The Rivals' Mrs. Malaprop, who often mistakenly used a similar-sounding word(s) (mal à propos) and gives us the term malapropism. The use of aptronyms is widespread in Dick Tracy, many superhero comic books, and the Austin Powers movies. Some notables nonfictionals include Thomas Crapper, manufacturer of Victorian toilets, and William Wordsworth, poet and advocate for the extension of British copyright law.

Note: This is not the case of character’s whose names come to denote certain traits, such as Scrooge for a miser. We also can’t forget that surnames were born of a person's occupation or region of residence, making aptronyms far less coincidental in medieval times.