Montessori and the Words of Nym

Posted by Greg MacDonald on

Apologies for the title of this blog to Robert C. O’Brien (Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH) and to his daughter Jane Leslie Conly who wrote two sequels (Racso and the Rats of NIMH, and R-T, Margaret, and the Rats of NIMH).

 My elementary Word Study lecture includes information for presentations beyond Prefixes, Suffixes, Compound Words, and Word Families.  The interest of elementary children in additional word classifications/types seems to be inexhaustible, and so such groups as Homonyms, Homophones, Homographs, Synonyms and Antonyms, as well as two additional types of “nyms” have been included in this lecture for some time.

Well, here is another “nym” group as well as two more groups of words well worth exploring, researching, and trying one’s own hand at creating brand new examples thereof.


Eponyms are words that take their name in almost all cases from a person (but occasionally a place) with which they are associated.  Examples include: 

 Braille, named for Louis Braille who invented this method for writing and reading using a system of raised dots.  (His inspiration for this idea is also most interesting!)

Ferris Wheel, named for its inventor, George Washington Gale Ferris Jnr., who invented the first Ferris Wheel for a World Exposition in Chicago.

Kleenex, which was originally a brand name for facial tissues, but which is now used as a name for any facial tissue, no matter who manufactured it!

Panic- named after Pan, a Greek god who was able to cause sudden and widespread fear with his voice.

Watt, a standard unit of power (used to indicate the brightness of light bulbs) named after James Watt, a Scottish inventor and engineer.

... Books named for their main character become eponyms immediately.  So do music albums that are self-titled by the artists, and companies named for their founders. So Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne, Led Zeppelin albums, and Brooksfilms are all eponyms.

(I think I’ve spotted opportunities for some Cosmic connections here already!)


This is a word coined by Lewis Carroll to describe words that he invented by blending existing words to make new words.  He invented the word chortle, for example from the words chuckle and snort.  Other examples:

Liger is the name given to an animal that is the offspring of a lion and a tiger.

Smog is a blend of the words smoke and fog.

Bunnicula (a children’s book series by James and Deborah Howe... Bunnicula sucks the juice out of vegetables.) is a blend of bunny and Dracula.

Roblox (an online game for children) is a combination of robot and blocks.

... You know, beside searching for more examples of portmanteaus, I think that I could have a LOT of fun inventing my own examples!!

Onomatopoeic Words

Words are sometimes a representation of the sound that the inventor of the word heard.  Rustle, zip, gulp, brush, and smash, are all examples.

More motives here for research (to create the definitive, “complete” list, for example, or to research a list of such words in another language)!  All it takes is a short introductory presentation!

And how many children could resist the idea of creating their own, original onomatopoeic words?  The kwurl of my mouse (that little wheel that I hear clicking as I scroll) is going to take me to wonderful places!

Hey!  I just invented an onomatopoeic word! 

Take note:  kwurl is now officially my personal, copyrighted, patented and unavailable for use by anyone but me UNLESS I give my personal, written (and extremely difficult to get unless you’re unimaginably nice to me) word!

(OK ... I went a little “second plane” there ...) 

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