WORDS DERIVED FROM THE NAMES OF PERSONS, ETC.
Argosy, from the name of the ship Argo, in which Jason and his companions sailed to the Black Sea to find the Golden Fleece. Used by Shakespeare, in the “Merchant of Venice,” i.1.9, in the sense of trading vessel.
Assassins, the name of a fanatical Syrian sect of the thirteenth century, who, under the influence of a drug prepared from hemp, called haschisch, rushed into battle against the Crusaders, and slaughtered many of their foes.
Atlas, one of the Titans, or earlier gods, who was so strong that he was said to carry the world on his shoulders.
August, from Augustus Cæsar, the second Emperor of Rome.
Bacchanalian, from the festival called Bacchanalia; from Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.
Boycott (to), from Captain Boycott, a land-agent in the west of Ireland, who was “sent to Coventry” by all his neighbours; they would neither speak to him, buy from him, or sell to him—by order of the “Irish Land League.”
Chimera, a totally imaginary and grotesque image or conception; from Chimæra, a monster in the Greek mythology, half goat, half lion.
Cicerone, a guide; from Cicero, the greatest Roman orator and writer of speeches that ever lived. (Guides who described antiquities, etc., were supposed to be as “fluent as Cicero.”)
Cravat, from the Croats or Crabali of Croatia, who supplied an army corps to Austria, in which long and large neck-ties were worn by the soldiers.
Dahlia, from Dahl, a Swedish botanist, who introduced the flower into Europe.
Draconian (code), a very severe code; from Draco, a severe Athenian legislator, who decreed death for every crime, great or small. His laws were said to have been “written in blood.”
Dunce, from Duns Scotus, a great philosopher (or “schoolman”) of the Middle Ages, who died 1308. The followers of Thomas Aquinas called “Thomists,” looked down upon those of Duns, who were called “Scotists,” and in course of time “Dunces.”
Epicure, a person fond of good living; from Epicurus, a great Greek philosopher. His enemies misrepresented him as teaching that pleasure was the highest or chiefest good.
Euphuistic (style), a style of high-flown refinement; from Euphues (the well-born man), the title of a book written in the reign of Elizabeth, by John Lyly, which introduced a too ingenious and far-fetched way of speaking and writing in her Court.
Fauna, the collective name for all the animals of a region or country; from Faunus, a Roman god of the woods and country. (The Fauni were minor rural deities of Rome, who had the legs, feet, and ears of a goat, and the other parts of the body of a human shape.)
Flora, the collective name for all the plants and flowers of a region or country; from Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers.
Galvanism, from Galvani, an Italian physicist, lecturer on anatomy at Bologna, who discovered, by experiments on frogs, that animals are endowed with a certain kind of electricity.
Gordian (knot), the knot tied by Gordius a king of Phrygia, who had been originally a peasant. The knot by which he tied the draught-pole of his chariot to the yoke was so intricate, that no one could untie it. A rumour spread that the oracle had stated that the empire of Asia would belong to him who should untie the Gordian knot. Alexander the Great, to encourage his soldiers, tried to untie it; but, finding that he could not, he cut it through with his sword, and declared that he had thus fulfilled the oracle.
Guillotine, an instrument for beheading at one stroke, used in France. It was invented during the time of the Revolution by Dr Guillotin.
Hansom (cab), from the name of its inventor.
Hector (to), to talk big; from Hector, the bravest of the Trojans, as Achilles was the bravest of the Grecian chiefs.
Hermetically (sealed), so sealed as to entirely exclude the outer air; form Hermes, the name of the Greek god who corresponds to the Roman god Mercury. Hermes was fabled to be the inventor of chemistry.
Jacobin, a revolutionist of the extremest sort; from the hall of the Jacobin Friars in Paris, where the revolutionists used to meet. Robespierre was for some time their chief.
Jacobite, a follower of the Stuart family; from James II. (in Latin Jacōbus), who was driven from the English throne in 1688.
January, from the Roman god Janus, a god with two faces, “looking before and after.”
Jovial, with the happy temperament of a person born under the influence of the star Jupiter or Jove; a term taken from the old astrology. (Opposed to saturnine, gloomy, because born under the star Saturn.)
July, from Julius, in honour of Julius Cæsar, the great Roman general, writer, and statesman—who was born in this month.
Lazarettor or Lazar-house, from Lazarus, the beggar at the gate of
Dives, in Luke xvi. The word is corrupted into lizard in Lizard-point, where a lazar-house once stood, for the reception of sick people from on board ship.
Lynch-law, from a famous Judge Lynch, of Tennessee, who made short work of his trials, and then of his criminals.
Macadamise, to make roads of fragments of stones, which afterwards cohere in one mass; from John Loudon Macadam, the inventor, who, in 1827, received from the Government a reward of £10,000 for his plan.
March, from Mars, the Roman god of war.
Martinet, a severe disciplinarian, with an eye for the smallest details; from General Martinet, a strict commander of the time of Louis XIV. of France.
Mausoleum, a splendidly built tomb; from Mausōlus, King of Caria in Asia Minor, to whom his widow erected a gorgeous burial-chamber.
Mentor, an advisor; from Mentor, the aged counsellor of Telémăchus, the son of Ulysses.
Mercurial, of light, airy, and quick-spirited temperament, as having been born under the planet Mercury (compare Jovial, Saturnine, etc.)
Panic, a sudden and unaccountable terror; from Pan, the god of flocks and shepherds. He was fabled to appear suddenly to travellers.
Parrot (= Little Peter, or Peterkin), from the French Perrot = Pierrot, from Pierre, Peter. Compare Magpie = Margaret Pie; Jackdaw; Robin-redbreast; Cuddy (from Cuthbert), a donkey, etc.
Petrel, the name of a sea-bird that skims the top of the waves in a storm, the diminutive of Peter. It is an allusion to Matthew xiv. 29. These birds are called by sailors “Mother Carey’s chickens.”
Phaeton, a kind of carriage; from Phäethon, a son of Apollo, who received from his father permission to guide the chariot of the Sun for a single day.
Philippic, a violent political speech directed against a person; from the orations made by Demosthenes, the great Athenian orator, against Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great.
Plutonic (rocks), igneous rocks (created by the action of fire)—in opposition to sedimentary rocks, which have been formed by the depositing action of water; from Pluto, the Roman god of the infernal regions.
Protean, assuming many shapes; from Proteus, a sea-deity, who had received the gift of prophecy from Neptune, but who was very difficult to catch, as he could take whatever form he pleased.
Quixotic, fond of utterly impracticable designs; from Don Quixote, the hero of the national Spanish romance, by Cervantes. Don Quixote is made to tilt at windmills, proclaim and make war against whole nations by himself, and do many other chivalrous and absurd things.
Simony, the fault of illegally buying and selling church livings; from Simon Magus. (See Acts viii. 18.)
Stentorian, very loud and strong; from Stentor, whom Homer describes as the loudest-voiced man in the Grecian army that was besieging Troy.
Tantalise, to tease with impossible hopes; from Tantalus, a king of Lydia in Asia Minor. He offended the gods, and was placed in Hadés up to his lips in a pool of water, which, when he attempted to drink it, ran away; and with bunches of grapes over his head, which when he tried to grasp them, were blown from his reach by a blast of wind.
Tawdry, shabby—a term often applied to cheap finery; from St Ethelreda, which became St Audrey: originally applied to clothes sold at St Audrey’s fair. (Compare Tooley from St Olave; Ted from St Edmund; etc.)
Volcano and Vulcanite, from the Roman god of fire and smiths, Vulcanus. A volcano was regarded as the chimney of one of his workshops.