Nomen omen ?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Amakat, Jan 3, 2008.

  1. Amakat

    Amakat New Member

    Poland, Polish
    My question is: is this Latin phrase (nomen omen) used in English at all? I wanted to use it in an essay, but then I thought I'd check, and no, can't find it anywhere. It is used (in Polish, and I think in other languages as well) to indicate that the very name of someone or something is a "sign" (or: that the character of a person is reflected in their name). For example:

    The absurdity of televangelism is exposed in a song "Jesus he knows me", recorded by a band called, nomen omen, GENESIS.

    If this is not used, what should I use instead to express thw same idea?
    Thank you for your help!
  2. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    I have never heard of it before.
  3. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    You could say, "a significant name". Another possibility is "a speaking name", but I am not certain about this. I hope others will comment.

    You might explain exactly what you hoped to say with "nomen omen", so others can be more helpful.
  4. Amakat

    Amakat New Member

    Poland, Polish
    1) Thank you very much.

    2) Okay, this is the only instance I have found online:

    "In 2001, architect Rem Koolhaus (nomen est omen!) was engaged to develop a master plan for the property that involved leveling most of the buildings and constructing a series of pavilions that would take the visitor chronologically through the collection, with different galleries illuminating different cultures' artistic contributions to that historical period."

    Nomen (est) omen in Latin means "the name is a sign", I'm not sure how to explain this any clearer. The name is supposed to suggest certain traits of personality (if you talk about a person) or behavior. In my first example a band with a "biblical" name (Genesis) performs a song about religion - something you might expect them to do, judging by the name. Or, you come across a wonderful selection of poems about winter and it turns out they were written by, nomen omen, Robert FROST ;) Anyhow, I am almost positive now that this expression doesn't really function in English.

    Thank you all for help.
  5. wonderment Senior Member

    I know what you mean, Amakat, but nomen omen is not a commonly understood expression at all. Try aptly named or aptly called instead.

    To revise your examples:
    You come across a wonderful selection of poems about winter and it turns out they were written by the aptly named poet, Robert FROST.

    The absurdity of televangelism is exposed in a song "Jesus he knows me," recorded by a band aptly called GENESIS.
  6. marquess Senior Member

    U.K. English
    I've never heard the Latin phrase used before either, but agree with Wonderment that 'aptly' seems to capture the idea, although I think people are more likely to use 'ironically' in these instances although it has a slightly different sense of seeing an irony in the apparent aptness of the name.
  7. mimpromptu New Member

    It's all probably irrelevant by now but it seems like the most obvious translation of
    'nomen omen' would be 'an ominous name'. I would be interested to learn your thoughts about my suggestion.
  8. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Ominous in English means something like "inauspicious, threatening". This is not the original Latin meaning of nomen omen, nor the meaning that it has when used in English. It is used, as in the above examples, to say that the name is prophetic, or says something true about what it names. As has been said above, nomen omen is a neutral term, like "aptly", and might be used whether the name promises something good or something bad.

    Edit: Oops! I forgot to say "Welcome to the forum, mimpromptu!" :)
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2009
  9. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    To show that a person's character is reflected in their name, you can use the expression "X by name, X by nature". For example, if a footballer with the surname "Savage" was known for his rough play, you could say "Savage by name, savage by nature."

    I've come across "nomen est omen" in other languages, but not in English.
  10. mimpromptu New Member

    Thank you for that, cagey.
  11. Beatis New Member

    The explanation is okay, but does not apply to the architect's name. Firstly, it's been misspelled; the name is Koolhaas and not Koolhaus. Haas is Ducth for hare and the Dutch word kool means both cabbage and coal.
  12. Merrit Senior Member

    Hello Beatis,

    Welcome to the Forum.

    It looks as if you missed the point. 'Koolhaus' sounds like the English words "cool house", so it's a rather 'cool' name for an architect.

    The meanings of 'kool' and 'haas' will, no doubt, be understood by those of us who speak Dutch, but they don't contribute much to the English Only Forum.

  13. Beatis New Member

    Did I really miss the point? I thought it is the actual name and its meaning - and not the way it may sound in another language - that is supposed to cause a person to behave in accordance with the meaning of his name. The Romans really believed this.

    Koolhaas may sound like "cool house" in English, but only when you spell consequently pronounce it the wrong way to begin with. It doesn't sound like cool house in Dutch and it doesn't mean cool house either. Perhaps an English name could have been chosen to explain the meaning of the expression, since this is the English Only forum. Wikipedia has a few examples on its page on nominative determinism:

  14. NewCliches New Member

    Australian English
    In formal writing, I would use 'the aptly/appropriately named architect Rem Koolhaus'.
    In much less formal registers: 'the architect Rem Koolhaus (the name says it all!)'
  15. Inglip Senior Member

    Dubai, UAE
    English - UK
    I would say - She has a fitting name.

    I actually sort of dated a girl, her name was Lovely! I used to say her name suits her, or she has a fitting name.

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