Wordmaster: galvanize

The word galvanize is derived from a person’s name:  Luigi Galvani, a physician and physicist of Bologna. It’s an example of an eponym (a word that derives from the name of a person).

Galvani observed that the legs of a frog would twitch when brought into contact with certain metals. The twitching was the result of a kind of animal electricity—hence galvanize, “to stimulate into sudden action”.

Other eponyms include:

  • cardigan from James Thomas Brudenell, seventh Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868);
  • Hoover (i.e., a vacuum cleaner) from W.H. Hoover (1849-1932);
  • mackintosh from Charles M. Macintosh (1766-1843);
  • sandwich from John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich; and
  • silhouette from Étienne de Silhouette (1709-67).

Source:  The Penguin Wordmaster Dictionary, Martin Manser and Nigel Turton, eds., 1987.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Bridgett
    Oct 30, 2009 @ 08:57:47

    I love eponyms. I didn’t know cardigan. Isn’t hooligan one?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: