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Namesake is a term used to characterize a person, place, thing, quality, action, state, or idea that has the same, or a similar, name to another[1] - especially (but not exclusively) if the person or thing is actually named after another, rather than merely sharing the name of another.[2][3]

For example, if a person, place, or thing has the same name as another - especially if they are named after another person, place, or thing, then the one that is named after the other, i.e., the recipient of the naming, is said to be the namesake of the name source. However, usage can go in the other direction, too, with the namesake referring to the source: Merriam-Webster defines it as: "one that has the same name as another; especially : one who is named after another or for whom another is named".[4]

The earliest use reported in the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1635. Dictionaries[which?] suggest that the word probably comes from "name's sake", "for one's name('s) sake", for "name sake".


The term namesake was first recorded in 1635, referring to a place with the same name as another.[1] Among other recordings, a 1646 usage was carried through in an 1806 publication, entitled A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language.[5] Modern-day usage has expanded to several uses for the term.[6]


Naming a child after a relative, friend, or well-known person is a fairly common practice. In the case of sons named for their father this can necessitate "Jr.", "III'", and other name suffixes in order to distinguish between individuals - especially when both father and son become famous. Use of a namesake's name in a leadership position may indicate certain things, usually referring to certain traits of the namesake, such as in the use of papal regnal names.[citation needed]

Some commercial entities and products are named after their creators, such as the Trump Tower and Ford Motor Company. Items are also named after people associated with them, such as the teddy bear. This is especially the case with scientific discoveries and theories, such as Gibbs free energy. When the receiver name merely is derived from the source name without an additional "sake" connection, such usage more accurately may be called an eponym rather than a namesake.[clarification needed]

Discrepancies in meaning (US usage)

There has been some discrepancy as to whether the name source or the name recipient takes the term namesake. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a namesake is a person or thing named after another.[7] In other words, the name recipient takes the term namesake, for example:

  • "I was named after my grandfather. I am his namesake."
  • "Julian's Castle, Julian's namesake restaurant."

The Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary are not so restrictive. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a namesake is a person or thing having the same name as another, while Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines "namesake" as "one that has the same name as another; especially one who is named after another or for whom another is named",[7] allowing such usage as: "I met a person who happened to have the same name as I. We are namesakes."

By defining namesake as "for whom another is named", Merriam-Webster's Dictionary allows the term to be used in reference to the name source as in:[7] "I was named after my grandfather; he is my namesake."

Both usages of namesake are correct. This ambiguity sometimes may be resolved by the terms eponym or namegiver; the latter refers to the name source which provides the name to the name recipient.[8]

Examples of namesakes

In popular culture

Astral bodies

Commercial products and entities

Fictional characters



Place names

Numerous place names are namesakes. These are but a few examples.

Professional examples

Scientific terms

These are but a few of the many chemical, electrical, and physical terms that are namesakes:


Namesake cataloguing

Casual or accidental identification of personal namesakes can occur in daily life via a number of sources, including: dictionaries of biography, internet search engines, newspaper births/deaths/marriages announcements, telephone directories, etc.

There are some notable examples of deliberate searching for and identification of non-related personal namesakes.

  • Starting with a drunken wager, British comedian Dave Gorman used a wide variety of methods to find namesakes, an exercise which then evolved into a 2001 stage show Are You Dave Gorman? and was subsequently adapted as a book and television series.[9]
  • US actor/filmmaker Jim Killeen used the Google search engine to find personal namesakes for his documentary Google Me (2007) [10]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Namesake". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Namesake". American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved 10 November 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Namesake". Merriam-Webster.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Walker, John (1806). A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary, and Expositor of the English Language. Oxford University: J. Johnson, G. Wilkie and J. Robinson, G. Robinson, T. Cadell and W. Davies.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Namesake." Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved: August 12, 2008.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Kyff, Rob (October 3, 2007). "Don't Forsake Meaning of Namesake". The Word Guy. Retrieved August 12, 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Eponym". The American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved April 15, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Are You Dave Gorman a.k.a. The Dave Gorman Collection". Retrieved 2015-05-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Google Me". December 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>