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).

1 Answer 1


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, 2020 at 14:50
  • These are uncommon words, are they? Jun 30, 2020 at 15:49
  • Yes, they are quite uncommon.
    – Glorfindel
    Jun 30, 2020 at 15:51
  • 2
    In everyday speech I would just say the person was 'aptly named', or 'had the appropriate name of ...'. Jun 30, 2020 at 18:05

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