Antonomasia

From Academic Kids

Antonomasia is a rhetoric device: the substitution of a phrase for a proper name or vice versa, that is the use of a proper name for a generic idea, in speech or writing. The word derives from the Greek word antonomazein meaning "to name differently".

For instance, using "The author" or "The author of the Harry Potter books" instead of "Joanne K. Rowling" is an instance of antonomasia.

A frequent instance of antonomasia in the late middle ages and early Renaissance was the use of the term, "the Philosopher", to refer to Aristotle. A more recent example of the other form of antnomasia was the use in 1930s journalism of "Solons" for "the legislators", after the semi-legendary Solon, lawgiver of Athens.

A contemporary example of an antonomastic usage occurs in the phrase "He's such a Nimrod!", substituting the fearless hunter's name—who isn't portrayed as being particularly idiotic—for "idiot" or "jerk", a usage that has been made popular by the 1940s Bugs Bunny cartoons, in which Bugs Bunny frequently refers to Elmer Fudd (who keeps hunting the hare without success) sarcastically as "poor little Nimrod".

Another frequently encountered example is the phrase "I'm no Croesus", meaning "I'm not a very rich person".

See also

eo:Antonomazio fr:Antonomase it:Antonomasia

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