I was trying to think of more words from memorable characters in literature -- so memorable that their name became a word and they became eponymous. I digress to call out that wonderful word eponymous, meaning a person that gave his or her name to a word or a concept or even to a physical thing, like (shudder) Trump Tower. Or the derived concept.
- The term Uncle Tom often appears in discussions of current events. You probably know that its origin is a character in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. The dictionary offers two meanings:
-- "a black who is overeager to win the approval of whites (as by obsequious behavior or uncritical acceptance of white values and goals), and also
-- "a member of a low-status group who is overly subservient to or cooperative with authority."
- Uncle Tom's Cabin also includes the character Simon Legree, a name that has become synonymous with a cruel slave driver.
- Nabokov's book Lolita is the source of the word lolita -- "a precociously seductive girl."
- From Shakespeare: a Romeo is, of course, a handsome lover.
Caliban by Rackham
- Yet another Shakespearean word -- sometimes the name Dogberry, a self-satisfied policeman in Much Ado About Nothing, is applied to similar officers of the law outside of the play. This one is a bit obscure, I think.
- Many other Shakespeare characters' names are also used to indicate similar individuals of the same type -- Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Othello, Iago, Hamlet, Portia.
To return to panglossian -- it's one of several words that Merriam-Webster online includes in "A Who's Who of Literary Allusions: Words that Come from Characters in Books." Examples from this list:
W.C.Fields as Mr. Macawber.
(All images from Wikipedia.)
- From The Three Princes of Serendip by Horace Walpole: serendipity -- "an assumed gift for finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for."
- From Gulliver's Travels by Swift: three words -- yahoo, lilliputian, and brobdingnagian -- which apply to three types of characters: boorish, very tiny, and gigantic.
- My biggest surprise was finding that the name of the disease, syphilis, originated as the name of a character in a literary work! "Syphilis was the name of the ostensible first sufferer of the disease, a shepherd and hero (if such a word can be used here) of the 1530 poem written by the Italian physician Girolamo Fracastoro, Syphilis sive Morbus Gallicus."