Words with interesting origins – people and places

A number of words in English have originated from the names of people,
biro: [ball-point pen] named after Laszlo Biro, its Hungarian inventor
boycott: [refuse to deal with or a refusal to deal with] after a landlord in Ireland who made himself unpopular by his treatment of his tenants and was socially isolated
braille: [name of a raised writing system used by blind people] from the name of its French inventor, Louis Braille
chauvinist: [strong belief that your country or race is superior to others] after the Frenchman, Nicolas Chauvin, who was fanatically devoted to Napoleon
hooligan: [a rough, lawless youth] from the Irish family name, Hooligan
machiavellian: [cunning, deceitful, unscrupulous in the pursuit of a goal] from Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian statesman who died in 1527
mentor: [loyal and wise adviser] from Mentor, friend to Odysseus
pamphlet: [a small leaflet] from a character Pamphilus, in a 12th century love poem to
pander: [to indulge someone’s desires] from Pandaros, a procurer or pimp in Ancient Greek mythology
saxophone: [musical instrument] invented by the Belgian, Adolphe Sax
tawdry: [cheap and tasteless] from St Audrey, at whose annual fair in the town of Ely, near Cambridge, cheap gaudy scarves were sold
watt: [unit of power] from the 18th century Scottish inventor, James Watt

Quite a few names of types of clothing, particularly hats, originate from the people who invented them or made them popular.

A number of other words in English come from place names.

bedlam: [chaos] from the name of a famous London mental hospital once situated where Liverpool Street Station now stands
spartan: [severely simple] from the ancient Greek city of Sparta, famed for its austerity
canter: [movement of a horse, faster than a trot but slower than a gallop] a shortening of Canterbury, a town in south-east England
gypsy: [member of a particular group of travelling people] These people were once thought to have come from Egypt, hence the name.

A number of names of different kinds of cloth originate from place names.

The place of origin is shown in brackets ( ).

angora (Ankara) cashmere (Kashmir) damask (Damascus)

denim (Nimes, France) gauze (Gaza) muslin (Mosul, Iraq)

satin (Qingjiang, China) suede (Sweden) tweed (River Tweed, Scotland)