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Don't know your acronyms from your antonyms or your aptronyms from your autonyms? Confused about what tautonyms and toponyms are? You'll find them all here, from homonyms and hypernyms to eponyms and exonyms. We will guide you through explanations of each term, with helpful examples. Never again will you be perplexed by patronyms, confused by contronyms (contranyms), baffled by bacronyms, or stumped by synonyms. You won't muddle meronyms, metonyms, and metronyms, nor heteronyms, hyperonyms, and hyponyms. This is the ultimate guide to the –nym words. So, if you don't know what autoantonyms, capitonyms, and oronyms are, or you want to find out more about paronyms, pseudonyms, and retronyms, read on...

Words ending in –nym are often used to describe different classes of words, and the relationships between words. The –nym literally means name, from the Greek onoma meaning name or word. The Nym Dictionary below defines all the common –nym words, and many of the more unusual ones too.

AcronymAn abbreviation formed from the initial letters of a series of words; e.g. NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration).
• From Greek akros (=point, tip).
• Also called protogram, initialism.
Antonym page
Either of a pair of words that have opposite (or near-opposite) meanings; e.g. slow and fast are antonyms of one another, also dead and alive, wife and husband. More examples here.
• From Greek anti (=against).
AptronymA person's name that matches it's owner's occupation or character very well (either in fiction or reality); e.g. arctic explorer Will Snow, hairdresser Dan Druff.
• From apt (=suitable); coined by Franklin P. Adams.
Autoantonym page
A word that can take two (or more) opposite meanings; e.g. fast means "moving quickly" or "fixed firmly in place", overlook means "to watch over carefully" or "to fail to notice". More examples here.
• From Greek auto (=self) + anti (=against).
• Often hyphenated as auto-antonym.
• Also called contranym, contronym, antilogy, enantiodrome, Janus word.
Autonym1. A word that describes itself; e.g. noun is a noun, polysyllabic is polysyllabic, abbrv. is an abbreviation, word is a word.
2. A person's real name; the opposite of pseudonym.
3. A name by which a social group or race refers to itself.
• From Greek auto (=self).
• Also called self-referential word.
• Take care not to confuse with antonym, autoantonym.
BacronymThe reverse of producing an acronym; taking a word which already exists and creating a phrase (usually humorous) using the letters of the word as initials: e.g. Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody (BANANA), Guaranteed Overnight Delivery (GOD).
• From back(wards) + acronym.
CapitonymA word which changes its meaning and pronunciation when capitalised; e.g. polish and Polish, august and August, concord and Concord.
• From capital letter.
ContranymAnother word for autoantonym.
ContronymAnother word for autoantonym.
EponymA name from which another name or word is derived; e.g. Romulus giving rise to Rome, the word sandwich coming from the Earl of Sandwich.
• From Greek epo (=on).
• Take care not to confuse with exonym.
ExonymA place name used by foreigners that differs from the name used by natives; e.g. Londres is the French exonym for London, Germany is an exonym because Germans call it Deutschland.
• From Greek exo (=outside).
• Take care not to confuse with eponym.
Heteronym page
One of two (or more) words that have the same spelling, but different meaning, and sometimes different pronunciation too. (Heteronyms that are pronounced differently are also heterophones.) E.g. sewer, row, entrance, wind. A heteronym is a kind of homonym. More examples here.
• From Greek hetero (=other).
• Also called heterograph.
Homonym page
One of two (or more) words that have the same pronunciation or spelling, but are different in meaning. (Homonyms which have the same spelling are also heteronyms; homonyms that have the same pronunciation, but different spelling and meaning, are also homophones; and homonyms that have the same spelling but are different in origin, meaning, and pronunciation are also homographs); e.g. sewer, row, write and right, way and weigh. More examples here.
• From Greek homo (=same).
• Take care when using the following terms as their meanings are easily confusable: homonym, homophone, heteronym, heterophone, homograph, heterograph.
HypernymA word that has a more general meaning than another; e.g. in the relationship between chair and furniture, furniture is a hypernym; in the relationship between horse and animal, animal is a hypernym.
• From Greek hyper (=over).
• Also called superordinate term, generic term.
• Take care not to confuse with hyponym.
HyperonymAnother word for hypernym.
HyponymA word that has a more specific meaning than another; e.g. in the relationship between chair and furniture, chair is a hyponym; in the relationship between horse and animal, horse is a hyponym.
• From Greek hypo (=under).
• Also called subordinate term.
• Take care not to confuse with hypernym.
Meronym1. A word that refers to a part of what another word refers to; e.g. in the relationship between leg and ankle, ankle is a meronym; in the relationship between brim and hat, brim is a meronym.
2. A term midway between two opposites; e.g. flat between convex and concave, present between past and future.
• From Greek meros (=part).
• Take care not to confuse with metonym, metronym.
MetonymA word designates something by the name of something associated with it; e.g. the Crown referring to the monarchy, the bottle referring to alcohol, the White House for the US executive branch.
• From Greek meta (=change).
• Take care not to confuse with meronym, metronym.
MetronymA name derived from the name of one's mother, or another female ancestor.
• From Greek metros (=mother).
• Take care not to confuse with meronym, metonym.
Oronym page
A string of words which is homophonic with another string of words; e.g. ice cream and I scream, mint spy and mince pie. More examples here.
• From oral (=spoken).
ParonymA word from the same root, and usually a similar pronunciation, as another; e.g. beautiful and beauteous.
• From Greek para (=beside).
• Take care not to confuse with patronym.
PatronymA name derived from the name of one's father, or another male ancestor.
• From Greek pater (=father).
• Take care not to confuse with paronym.
PseudonymAn assumed name, especially by an author; e.g. Eric Arthur Blair wrote the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four under the pseudonym George Orwell.
• From Greek pseudo (=false).
• Also called pen name.
RetronymAn adjective-noun pairing generated by a change in the meaning of the base noun, usually as a result of technological advance; e.g. watch became pocket watch due to introduction of wrist watch, pen became fountain pen due to introduction of ball-point pen.
• From Greek retro (=backward); coined by Frank Mankiewicz.
SynonymOne of two (or more) words that have the same (or very similar) meaning; e.g. big and large, error and mistake, run and sprint.
• From Greek sun (=together).
Tautonym1. A word composed of two identical parts; e.g. pawpaw, yo-yo, tutu, bye-bye.
2. In biological nomenclature, a taxonomic name in which the genus and species names are identical; e.g. puffinus puffinus (manx shearwater), apus apus (common swift).
• From Greek taut (=same).
Toponym1. A place name; e.g. London, Mount Everest.
2. A word derived from a place name; e.g. champagne from Champagne in France, cashmere from Kashmir in India.
• From Greek topos (=place).

Some other –nym words: allonym, ananym, anonym, caconym, cohyponym, cryptonym, dionym, euonym, euonym, euphonym, isonym, paedonym, paranym, poecilonym, polyonym, teknonym, trionym.

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