What is an eponym?

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When you want to clean the floors, do you use a vacuum cleaner or a hoover? Do you wipe your nose on a kleenex or a tissue? And when you’re walking through mud, would you go for waterproof rubber boots or wellingtons? In other words, do you use the generic or general name for the object, or do you use its eponym?

An eponym is a word which is derived ¬†from a personal name. In the first two examples above, “Hoover” and “Kleenex” are manufacturers of the objects whose names have become so well-known that the manufacturer’s name has become synonymous with the name of the product. In the third example, although many people assume that the Duke of Wellington invented this type of waterproof boot, it was probably simply named in honour of him because he was a national hero at the time the boots were first manufactured.
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