Definition of antonomasia in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌantənəˈmeɪzɪə/
Pronunciation: /anˌtɒnəˈmeɪzɪə/


[mass noun]
1 Linguistics The substitution of an epithet or title for a proper name (e.g. the Maid of Orleans for Joan of Arc).
Example sentences
  • Darryl James, editor of RapSheet, presents Eminem with this antonomasia: ‘the Elvis of Rap’.
  • A fine example of antonomasia is the name given a polygamist by his four wives in different towns: 'Seldom Seen Smith'.
  • One was antonomasia, the usually derisive practice of describing an individual by a certain characteristic, then making it into a proper noun.
2The use of a proper name to express a general idea (e.g. a Scrooge for a miser).
Example sentences
  • Another type of antonomasia we meet when a common noun is still clearly perceived as a proper name.
  • The antonomasia can also work the other way, with a proper name as a description - referring to a soldier as a Rambo, for instance, or calling an obsequious black man Uncle Tom.
  • He blithely absolves this libel as an example of "antonomasia".


Mid 16th century: via Latin from Greek, from antonomazein 'name instead', from anti- 'against, instead' + onoma 'a name'.

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: an¦tono|ma¦sia

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