Some fun with words, if quizzes and such are your idea of fun

Name that “nym.” Can you identify the terms with the suffix “nym” in them from the definitions below?

1. Two or more words with similar or identicle meanings.
2. Two words with opposite meanings.
3. Two or more words with the same pronounciation, but different spellings and meanings.
4. Alias.
5. Name taken from a father’s name
6. Word derived from a person’s name.
7. Two words with the same spelling, but different pronounciations and meanings. (Note: not the same as 3 above.)


1. synonym
2. antonym
3. homonym
4. pseudonym
5. patronymic
6. eponym
7. heteronym

Let’s face it, synonyms are so common, usual, frequent, familiar, and pedestrian you see them everywhere. So prevelent, abundant and ubiquitous they have books full of them, Thesauruses. The previous two sentences have nine synonyms, for example. So let’s not waste our time with them. (The last sentence has four homonyms in a row, “knot waist hour tyme.” And that sentence has two more, one of them a heteronym.)

Antonyms are nothing special, either. Most things have an opposite or they wouldn’t mean much. Would fast mean anything if there weren’t also slow? I won’t belabor this, let’s get off it and get on with it.

People like homonyms, if only because they can use them in puns. On the other hand, people don’t like homonyms because they can lead to typos which spell-check doesn’t always spot because they’re (there, their) spelled right (rite, write, wright) even though it’s (its) the wrong word.

This can be a real problem if the homonym is also an antonym. Can you name a pair of common words that are both homonyms and antonyms? (Hint: they start with R.)


Answer: Raze and raise. The first means destroy, the second is to build.

Pseudonyms, and their cousins nicknames, are more fun if you like trivia.

1. What are the real, given names of these people?
Mark Twain, Groucho Marx, Tiger Woods, Cary Grant, Ringo Starr, Eminem.

2. What are the pseudonyms of these people?
Marion Morrison, Charles Dodgson, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Harlean Carpenter, Eric Blair, William Claude Dunkenfield.


1. Samuel Clemens, Julius Marx, Eldrick Woods, Archibald Leach, Richard Starkey, Marshal Mathers.

2. John Wayne, Lewis Carroll, Pele, Jean Harlow*, George Orwell, W.C. Fields.

There are plenty more where they came from. I suppose I could have listed just about every Rap artist there is, but I’m not up on that. (Is my age showing?) Anyway, these aren’t all that interesting. Onward to…

Patronimics, as in John Johnson, Jr.

A son’s last name derived from his father’s first name is something of an anachronism, it isn’t much done anymore this side of Iceland. Still, many common names retain a vestige of this old practice. Any name ending in “son” or “sen” is obvious. The Scottish “Mac” and ”“Mc” is son of, too. So we might have Peter Johnson and John Peterson, Arthur MacDonald and Donald MacArthur. Though we can’t really tell who’s the father and who’s the son.

“Fitz” is also son of, which gives us the punch line to an off-color Irish joke, Gerald Fitzpatrick and Patrick Fitzgerald. If you don’t know the set-up… make a guess.

* Jean Harlow was the actress' mother’s name. Her given first name was a concoction of Harlow and Jean producing the made-up name Harlean. Which was a sort-of patronymic. Actually, it’d be a metronymic as it came from the mother’s name.

Eponyms that outlive the person.

Do you know the terms defined and what both real and fictional people they’re named after?

1. Protest by avoidance, or shunning.
2. Using the wrong big word in the wrong place.
3. Transposing the consonant sounds begining two words in a sentence. (Such as “Give me two pickets to Tittsburgh” instead of “Two tickets to Pittsburgh.”)
4. Enjoy inflicting pain.
5. Pleasure from receiving pain.
6. Blind devotion.


1. Boycott, from Charles Boycott.
2. Malapropism, from a character in a Sherridan play, Mrs. Malaprop.
3. Spoonerism, from the Reverend William Spooner who was known for such "gifts of speech."
4. Sadism, after Comte Donatien de Sade. AKA, the Marquis de Sade.
5. Masochism, after Austrian Leopold von Sacher-Masoch.
6. Chauvinism, after die-hard Napoleon supporter Nicholas Chauvin.

Sometimes an eponymous name can be a pseu­donym, too. As is the case of Joseph Stalin, whose name in Russian meant “Joe Steel.” His given name was Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili.


Heteronyms, what you read isn’t always what you get.

There’s a pair of heteronyms hinted at in each of the clues below. Can you figure them out?

1. Tied one on the boat.
2. Small moment of time.
3. A pig planting her garden.
4. Bandaged boo-boo.
5. Shut the nearest door.
6. A fight in the queue.
7. Reaction to a rip.
8. Gust through a gully.
9. Against a thing.
10. Direct metal.

Answers: pronunciations in parentheses

1. Bow - (boe), like a ribbon; (bau), the front of a boat.
2. Minute - (mie-NOOT), very tiny; (MIH-net), 60 seconds.
3. Sow - (sau), a female pig; (soe), planting seeds.
4. Wound - (wownd), wrapped; (woond), an injury.
5. Close - (kloze), as in shut; (klose), nearby.
6. Row - (rau), a fight; (roe), a line of people.
7. Tear - (teer), as from crying; (tare), as in ripping or shredding.
8. Wind - (wind), as in blustery weather: (wynd), meander or wind a watch.
9. Object - (ub JEKT), as seen on TV, "Your honor, I object!"; (OB ject), thing.
10. Lead - (leed), as in a fearless leader; (led), the metal with the symbol Pb. (You might wonder why the symbol for lead is Pb. It’s from the Latin name plumbum.)

With heteronyms, which word is which is impossible to tell out of context. Crossword puzzle fillers come across these all the time and they can be misleading if you think the clue is one word when it’s the other.

Hopefully this was both entertaining and informative. If not, it didn’t cost you anything but time. So don’t blame me, you could have quit any time you wanted.