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Off topic: Aptronyms
Thread poster: Paul Dixon

Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:38
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Nov 26, 2014

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I have seen an interesting article in the Guardian ( about aptronyms. An aptronym is a name which suits the person. One example I can think of is Usain Bolt, as he runs fast and a bolt of lightning is also fast. Can you think of any more examples, and what about inaptronyms, where the name does not fit the person at all? This is definitely a fascinating aspect of language. Any examples in other languages?


Triston Goodwin  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
My name Nov 26, 2014

My name is used to describe a really sad person or situation in Spanish (tristón). I'm generally pretty happy, though I can by grouchy at times.


Susan Ruusunen  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:38
English to Finnish
+ ...
aptronyms in Finland Nov 26, 2014

Glad someone else is amused by these, too!
If aptronyms also cover people's occupations:
here are some real examples in Finland, with translation of the last name:

Meteorologist in TV, Pekka Pouta (Fair/dry weather)
Gardnener and botanist Arno Kasvi (plant), (was also in TV and radio shows)
Chief Urologist Martti Ala-Opas (Ala =lower, bottom; Opas = guide)
Police Kari Tulikoura (Tuli= fire, koura = hand, fist)
Ornitologist Juha Tiainen (Yellow tit, or blue tit)
Vet Mikael Ilves (Lynx), has even written pet care books
Midwife Katariina Sikiö (foetus)
CEO Pertti Varakas (wealthy)
Physics and chemistry teacher Marja Voltti (volt)
Pastor/reverend Kalmanlehto (death grove)
Pastor/reverend Hurskainen (~devout, pious)
Nurse Pipinen (pipi = booboo, owie)

Nomen est omen? The name is an omen?icon_smile.gif


Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
From the corporate world Nov 26, 2014

I often pass by a building that displays, with capital letters, a huge word on the roof: "ASCO". I presume it's a company name. In Spanish it means "disgust". I wonder how they got registered.

There is another company, a bakery actually, called "Panos", which in Russian stands for "diarrhea". Not exactly what you expect after stopping by for a morning croissant.


Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:08
English to Hindi
+ ...
This is quite common, in most parts of the world. Nov 27, 2014

Probably because names have a very close association with trades and professions, and often trade names get added to an individual's name.

So in India, caste (which is nothing but a trade guild) names like Gandhi (a perfume merchant or a cloth merchant), Dalal (agent, or a stockbroker), Engineer (engineer), Contractor (contractor), Plumber (plumber), Vaid/vaidya (doctor), Pujari (priest), etc., are also very common surnames. Many people with these surnames also follow the same profession, so technically they all qualify as aptronyms.

And when they don't, they can (probably) pass off as inaptronyms. The famous case of this is of course Mahatma Gandhi, who was among other things a lawyer, politician, spiritual leader, writer, journalist, etc., but not a perfume or cloth merchant. Another example is Narry Contractor who was actually a cricketer.

I think this is not restricted to India alone. Even in the West you have surnames that are also trade names. For example, Miller, Bowman, Archer, Taylor, Walker, Gardener, Wright, Baker, Shoemaker, etc., are all trade names, and people having these names could also exhibit the characteristics of these trades if they are actually practising these trades, and therefore would qualify as aptronymns. And if they don't, they are suitable candidates for inaptronyms. For an hypothetical example, if a man of poor eyesight has a surname of Archer or Taylor, we can treat it as an inaptronymn. Or if a person with very poor cooking abilities has the surname Baker, that too would be an inaptronymn, won't it?

In India, poets and writers of many Indian languages, in addition to their actual names also keep a pen-name which often reflects some real or imagined quality of the poet or his poetry. So we have the Hindi poet Suryakant Triphathi who had the pen name of Nirala (unusual), because his poetry was entirely different from that of his contemporaries, and also he was a bit of an eccentric in his habits. These too could qualify as aptronymns. I don't know if this practice is common in other languages, but it could be. I am currently reading Jane Austen, and while looking her up in Wiki, I learned that her initial works were published under the pen-name of "A Lady", which she actually was, no two opinion there. So do we have another aptronymn here?

And if we range back to ancient literature, we can think of many more examples. From Mahabharata, the Sanskrit epic, we have Bhim, which means large-bodied, and indeed he was a wrestler and known for his huge strength. We have the famous Hindu God Krishna, which means dark-complexioned, and he was indeed dark-complexioned.

Delving more into Hindu mythology, we can get many more examples of aptronymns. The elephant-headed God Ganesh has many names which are all true aptronymns. Some examples:- Lambodara (large-bellied, Ganesh is a corpulent God), Vakratunda (curved nose, Ganesh has an elephant's trunk for a nose), Ekadanta (one-tusked, the other tusk of his elephant head is broken and there are numerous tales to explain why it is broken).

I am sure even in Greek mythology and and Greek god-names, there would be similar examples.

In India, names, often are abstract nouns or adjectival nouns. and these names can easily go wrong, and a person bearing such names can turn to be opposite of what their names signify. So a girl named Meenakshi (eyes in the shape a fish), or Sulochana (beautiful eyes), can later develop eye defects and need to use spectacles. Or someone with a name like Atal (firm of character), can actually turn out to be a very fickle person.

PS: By the way, the link didn't work, and I couldn't access the Guardian article.

[Edited at 2014-11-27 08:09 GMT]

[Edited at 2014-11-27 08:10 GMT]


Amel Abdullah  Identity Verified
Arabic to English
+ ...
A Joke Nov 27, 2014

There's a joke in Arabic that goes something like this:

A man names his newborn son "Stupid." Explaining, he says, "When he gets old enough, he'll either change his name, which means he actually wasn't stupid, or he'll keep the name, which means he deserved to be called Stupid after all."


neilmac  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:38
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spanish aptronyms Nov 27, 2014

The former Chairman of Banco Santander, Emilio Botín recently passed away. His surname always seemed amusing to me:

botín m
2 a (de guerra) plunder, booty
b (de ladrones) haul, loot


Olly Pekelharing  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:38
Member (2009)
Dutch to English
Peace and justice Nov 27, 2014

My full name is Oliver Justin which suits me rather well.


Jitka Komarkova (Mgr.)  Identity Verified
Czech Republic
Local time: 05:38
Member (2013)
English to Czech
+ ...
Another in Czech Nov 27, 2014

I like these, too!icon_smile.gif

Our famous botanist and former director of Prague Botanic Garden is called Václav Větvička (Větvička meaning "twig" in English)



Paul Dixon  Identity Verified
Local time: 00:38
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Guardian link Nov 27, 2014

If you enter the site directly (not through the link) it opens perfectly well. Using the link I got error 404, can't imagine why.


Miguel Carmona  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:38
English to Spanish
A lawyer... without law? Nov 27, 2014

In the United States, in the state of Washington, there is a lawyer by the name (last name) of Lawless.

I wonder if "certain" kind of clientele prefers him to get them out of trouble on account of him having a name like that! _icon_smile.gif


Natalia Kobzareva  Identity Verified
Russian Federation
Local time: 06:38
Member (2009)
English to Russian
+ ...
Diarrhea in Russian Nov 28, 2014

is spelt ponos, with the stressing on the last syllable, while Panos has the stressing on the first syllable.

There is a very well-known professor (a former translator and interpreter) teaching English in the University of Diplomatic Relations in Moscow whose last name is Fakov.


Merab Dekano  Identity Verified
Member (2014)
English to Spanish
+ ...
I know how it is spelled and stressed, but thanks anyway. Nov 28, 2014

Natalia Kobzareva wrote:

is spelt ponos, with the stressing on the last syllable, while Panos has the stressing on the first syllable.

There is a very well-known professor (a former translator and interpreter) teaching English in the University of Diplomatic Relations in Moscow whose last name is Fakov.

Thanks, Natalia. It never is a 100% match, is it? It does not prevent me from laughing every time I see the store.

In relation to 'Fakov", I just recalled that in Dutch "handy man" is "vakman" (pronounced "fakman"). So, if your professor is also a handy man, the "package" is becoming very interesting, provided he visits Dutch speaking countries.


Ramunas Kontrimas  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:38
English to Lithuanian
+ ...
armless tennis star Feb 3, 2016

A funny subject.

My example from Lithuanian: our best tennis player (in top 100 I believe) is Berankis which means armless/handless. That's certainly not an aptronym... but what then?

[Edited at 2016-02-03 07:38 GMT]


Serena Basili  Identity Verified
Local time: 05:38
English to Italian
+ ...
Violent cop! Feb 3, 2016

The former Chief of Italian Police was Antonio Manganelli (=Batons)

[Edited at 2016-02-03 08:26 GMT]

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