Aptronyms

What are they?

Aptronyms, also called aptonyms, are names that suit a person’s traits or profession. The word aptronym has both Greek and Latin origins. “Apt” is from Latin in Middle English and means exactly suitable or appropriate. The affix “-(r)onym” is from the Greek “noma,” which means name. Essentially, aptronyms are names that closely mean what they say. You might consider them synonyms for what someone does, what they stand for or what represents who they are.

Real-life aptronyms

You have probably encountered real-life aptronyms for people whose names seem well-suited for their professions. Some people refer to the phenomenon of people entering professions suitable to their surname nominative determinism. Some famous examples include:

  1. Tiger Woods – a professional golfer (a wood is a type of golf club)
  2. Prince Fielder – a professional baseball player
  3. Martin Short – an actor who is uncommonly short for a male
  4. Thomas Crapper – a toilet manufacturer and promoter of the flush toilet
  5. Usain Bolt – a Jamaican runner who is often said to run as fast as a bolt of lightening

Creating aptronyms in fiction

Creating aptronyms in fiction writing is an excellent way to highlight and define a character’s personality or profession. Two of the most well-known examples in fiction writing come from a 17th century novel by Paul Bunyan, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” in which two character names are Mr. Talkative and Mr. Worldly Wiseman. As a writer, you can use aptronyms subtly or blatantly, depending on the effect you want to create. Consider the following examples:

Mr. Does Nothing: A character who has little ambition could take this aptronym, or a character who does little around the house to help his wife.

Mrs. Youth: A character who seems unusually young for her age.

Dr. Finicky: A character who is very particular about many things, maybe about one thing in particular.

The list is really endless for the characters you wish to create using aptronyms. The above examples all address a personality trait or something that describes the character. In reality, you could use an aptronym that is related to a person’s profession, their political or religious affiliation or anything else that enters your mind. You are limited only by your imagination in creating playful, fun and interesting aptronyms for fiction writing.