How to translate the Russian phrase 'говорящая фамилия'? It's literally translated as "speaking surname" and refers to last names that reflect the person's quality. For example, if a short man is named "John Little" the last name is a "speaking surname", in Russian terms. It (the adjective) can be used not only with surnames, with any names, basically (of inanimate things as well).


It's not as easily understandable as the Russian phrase, but there's a word euonym

a name well suited to the person, place, or thing named

(source: Merriam-Webster)

The name is derived from ancient Greek 'eu' meaning 'good' and the 'onym' suffix is often used to denote some kind of word (synonym, homonym).

Lexico lists aptronym / aptonym:

A person's name that is regarded as amusingly appropriate to their occupation.
‘he began collecting aptronyms when he saw an ad for a flower shop operated by Flora Gardner’

It's derived from the word 'apt' meaning 'appropriate'.

Wikipedia has a nice list of English aptronyms.

  • And there is the related concept of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nominative_determinism where people choose an occupation suited to their name.
    – mdewey
    Jun 30 '20 at 14:50
  • These are uncommon words, are they? Jun 30 '20 at 15:49
  • Yes, they are quite uncommon.
    – Glorfindel
    Jun 30 '20 at 15:51
  • 2
    In everyday speech I would just say the person was 'aptly named', or 'had the appropriate name of ...'. Jun 30 '20 at 18:05

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