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]

In the United States, the term is often used for a person or thing actually named after, rather than merely sharing the name of another.[2] For example, if a person, place, or thing is named after another person, place, or thing, then the name target is said to be the namesake of the name source. The earliest use reported in the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1635. Dictionaries 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.[3] Modern-day usage has expanded to several uses for the term.[4]

US usage

Using a namesake's name is a relatively common practice in naming children that has given rise to the large number of "Jr.", "III", and other name suffixes. Namesakes are often used in tribute to older, related persons, such as grandparents. 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.

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 target 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.

Discrepancies (US usage)

There has been some discrepancy as to whether the name source or the name target takes the term namesake. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, a namesake is a person or thing named after another.[5] In other words, the name target takes the term namesake, as in

"I was named after my grandfather. I am his namesake."

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. Webster's Dictionary defines "namesake" as "one that has the same name as another; esp. one who is named after another or for whom another is named",[5] allowing the usage of:

"I met a person who happened to have the same name as me. We are namesakes."

By "for whom another is named", Webster's Dictionary allows the term namesake to be used in reference to the name source as in,[5]

"I was named after my grandfather. He is my namesake."

Both usages of namesake are correct. This ambiguity sometimes may be resolved by the term namegiver, which refers to the name source as providing the name to the name receiver[citation needed].

Examples of namesakes

Popular culture

Scientific terms


Commercial products and entities

Professional examples

Namesake Cataloguing

Casual or accidental identification of personal namesakes can occur in daily life via a number of sources, including: telephone directories, newspaper births/deaths/marriages announcements, dictionaries of biography, internet search engines, 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 which was subsequently made into a book and television series [1].
  • US actor/filmmaker Jim Killeen used the Google search engine to find personal namesakes for his 2007 documentary "Google Me" [2]

See also


  1. ^ a b Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). 2009. 
  2. ^ "Namesake". Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved August 12, 2008. 
  3. ^ 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.,M1. 
  4. ^ "Namesake." Online Dictionary. 2008. Retrieved: August 12, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c Kyff, Rob. (October 3, 2007) The Word Guy Don't Forsake Meaning of Namesake" Accessed: August 12, 2008

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Namesake — Name sake , n. [For name s sake; i. e., one named for the sake of another s name.] One that has the same name as another; especially, one called after, or named out of regard to, another. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • namesake — index call (title) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • namesake — (n.) person named for the sake of someone, 1640s, probably originally (for the) name s sake …   Etymology dictionary

  • namesake — ► NOUN ▪ a person or thing with the same name as another. ORIGIN from the phrase for the name s sake …   English terms dictionary

  • namesake — [nān′sāk΄] n. [earlier name s sake] a person with the same name as another, esp. if named after the other …   English World dictionary

  • namesake — [[t]ne͟ɪmseɪk[/t]] namesakes N COUNT: usu poss N Someone s or something s namesake has the same name as they do. [WRITTEN] He is putting together a four man team, including his son and namesake Tony 0 Reilly Jnr... Cathedral Notre Dame in Senlis… …   English dictionary

  • namesake — name|sake [ˈneımseık] n [Date: 1600 1700; Origin: Probably from name s sake] sb s namesake another person, especially a more famous person, who has the same name as someone ▪ Like his famous namesake, young Washington had a brave, adventurous… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • namesake — noun (C) sb s namesake another person, especially a more famous person, who has the same name as someone: Like his famous namesake, young Nelson had a brave, adventurous spirit …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • namesake — UK [ˈneɪmˌseɪk] / US noun [countable] Word forms namesake : singular namesake plural namesakes a person or thing with the same name as someone or something else …   English dictionary

  • namesake — /ˈneɪmseɪk / (say naymsayk) noun 1. someone having the same name as another: *The yellow envelopes contained a smaller white envelope on which the words I think this letter s one of yours had been scrawled by his namesake. –john a. scott, 1988. 2 …   Australian English dictionary

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