A teknonym is a name derived from a child's name that is used to address or refer to a parent. For example, "Johnsdad" (as opposed to "Johnson," the more common patronym). The word comes from the Greek "teknon" (child) and "-onym" (name). ("Pedonym" or "paedonym" are also used occasionally for the same concept.)

The usage example given in A.Word.A.Day was "Informants spoke at great length about how respectful Fijian practice requires avoiding using the personal names of certain categories of people (or even avoiding their presence altogether). Once people have children, for instance, they are to be addressed by the teknonym `father of' or `mother of' their eldest child." {Karen J. Brison; "Constructing Identity Through Ceremonial Language in Rural Fiji"; Ethnology (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania); Fall 2001.} Other cultures that use some type of teknonymy include some located in Bali, Japan, China, Korea, other parts of the East Asian mainland and islands, southern Venezuela/northern Brazil, some parts of Africa, and as Txikwa was kind enough to inform me, in Arabic "it occurs in very well known names: Abu is 'father of' and Umm is 'mother of', as in Abu Bakr, Abu Nidal, Umm Kulthum. It's still in active use. You remember Yasir Arafat got married not that long ago and had a kid: he then became known as Abu Amr. So it's Arab-wide." Most cultures that do this formally use the eldest child or eldest son's name in forming the teknonym, no matter how many children the person has.

The use of teknonyms can cause some difficulty in keeping people straight for researchers from other cultures "because the name of the child can last as the child's name only until the child becomes a parent, since he will in turn be named for his child." However, this isn't all that different from genealogists' difficulty in the English-speaking world tracking down the families of origin of women who take their husband's surnames on marriage.

Another type of teknonym is that used unofficially by English-speaking (and probably other languages) children who do not know the names of their friends'/classmates' parents, or perhaps even the family names of those people. Thus they address these parents to their faces as "Will's mom" (or as the Simpsons episode "Bart of Darkness" has Jimbo Jones addressing Marge Simpson, "Mrs., uh, Bart.")


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