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Word Meaning Eponym
bacchanalia A drunken orgy. Bacchus, Roman name of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus.
bacitracin A polypeptide used in the treatment of bacterial infections, especially those caused by cocci. A blend of bacillus plus the surname of Margaret Tracy (circa1936-), the child in whose tissues it was first isolated.
bakelite An maleable synthetic resin that hardens and holds its shape; a forerunner of modern plastics. Leo Hendrik Baekeland (1863-1944), the American chemist who invented it.
basque A woman's tight-fitting bodice that extends below the waistline. The Basque people living in the Pyrenees in France and Spain, whose women wear such a bodice.
baud A measurement of the speed of electronic transmittion equal to the number of signal changes per second. Jean Maurice Emile Baudot (1845-1903), the French inventor of a telegraph code that replaced Morse code as the most commonly used telegraphic alphabet by the middle of the 20th century.
béchemel Thick white sauce made of milk infused with herbs. Louis de Béchamel, marquis de Nointel (1630-1703), a French financier.
becquerel An international unit of radioactivity equal to one nuclear decay per second. Antoine-Henri Becquerel (1852-1908), a French physicist and Nobel Prize winner (with Pierre and Marie Curie) for his discovery of spontaneous radioactivity.
bedlam Uproar and confusion. A corruption of Bethelehem, for the Hospital of Saint Mary of Bethlehem, an institution in London for the mentally ill.
begonia A cultivated flower with bright, waxy leaves and bunches of colorful flowers. Michel Bégon (1638-1710), the governor of the West Indies, who brought the flower to Great Britain in the 17th century.
bel A measure of loudness: 10 decibels. Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922), Scottish-born American scientist who invented the telephone.
benedict A newly married man, especially one who has long been a bachelor. Benedick, a character in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare.
benedictine A French liqueur made from cognac mixed with herbs and spices. The Order of Saint Benedict founded by the Italian Saint Benedict of Nursia (circa 480-547) where it originated.
bignonia A woody evergreen vine. Abbé Jean-Paul Bignon (1662-1743), the French court librarian of his day.
billingsgate Vile profanity, cursing. The Billinsgate fish market in London, known for the profanity of its fishwives.
biro British term for a ball-point pen. László Jozsef Biró (1900-1985), Hungarian inventor of the ball-point pen.
blondel A unit of luminence This unit honors the French physicist André Eugène Blondel (1863-1938), French physicist, for his pioneering work in photometry.
bloomers Women's underpants. Amelia Jenkins Bloomer (1818-1894), US social reformer and advocate of a new style of dress for women.
blucher A type of shoe whose laces tie over the tongue from two flaps, worn for dancing and yachting. Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher (1742-1819), German prince and general.
bobby A British policeman. Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), home secretary of England when the London police force was created in 1829.
boffin An egghead, derogatory term for scientist Mr. Boffin, character in the novel Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865), by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), English novelist
bogart (1) To force, coerce, intimidate. (2) To hog, take more than one's share. Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957), US movie actor known for his tough guy roles.
Bolivia A South American country. Simón Bolívar (1783-1830), South American soldier and statesman.
Boolean Related to a system of symbolic logic based on operators like and, or, not. George Boole (1815-1864), a British mathematician and philosopher.
borrelia A bacterium that causes relapsing fever. Amédée Borrel (1867-1936), French bacteriologist.
bougainvillea A woody vine with large bunches of brilliantly colored orange to red flowers. Louis Antoine de Bougainville (1729-1811), French soldier, writer, scientist and the first Frenchman to circumnavigate the world.
boulework Elaborate inlay of woods, metals, tortoiseshell, ivory, and the like in cabinetry. A. C. Boule (1642-1732), French cabinetmaker.
bourbon An American whiskey distilled from a corn, malt, and rye mash. After Bourbon County in northeast Kentucky.
bowdlerize To heavily expurgate or rewrite a document. Thomas Bowdler (1734-1825), who in 1818 published an edition of Shakespeare, 'in which those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a family'.
boycott To refuse to do business with because of a difference of opinion. Charles C. Boycott (1832-1897), Irish land agent for an absentee landlord who refused to bow to Irish land reforms of the 1880s and was shunned by members of the party supporting the reforms (the Irish Land League) who denied him servants, postal service, access to stores, etc.
boysenberry A hybrid between several varieties of blackberries, raspberries, and loganberries. Rudolph Boysen (died 1950), the American botanist who developed the hybrid.
braggadocio A braggart. Braggadocchio, the personification of vainglory in The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (circa1552-1599).
braille A system of writing for the blind comprising raised bumps on a sheet of heavy paper. Louis Braille (1809-1852), the French teacher, writer and musician who invented the system.
bromeliad A stemless tropical American plant with long stiff leaves, such as the pineapple. Olaf Bromelius (1639-1705), a little-known Swedish botanist.
brougham An enclosed four-wheel carriage with an open driver's seat. Henry Peter Brougham, First Baron Brougham and Vaux (1778-1868), one of Britain's leading reform politicians of the nineteenth century.
buddleia The butterfly bush. Adam Buddle (c.1660-1715), English rector and botanist
buhlwork Elaborate inlay of woods, metals, tortoiseshell, ivory, and the like in cabinetry. Germanized form of French boule, named after A. C. Boule (1642-1732), French cabinetmaker.
bunkum, bunk Nonsense, claptrap, gobbledegook. After Buncombe County in western North Carolina, from a long, boring speech made around 1820 by its Republican congressman, Felix Walker (1753-1828) "for Buncombe" on an issue that was totally unrelated to his district.
burberry A waterprooff laminated cotton raincoat. Thomas Burberry of London, who founded Burberry, Ltd. in 1856 and went on to create gabardine and the original trenchcoat.
burke To strangle or suffocate someone intentionally. Irishman William Burke, executed in Edinburgh in 1829 for suffocating 16 people in order to sell their bodies to Edinburgh Medical School for dissection at £7 10/- each.
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