This word sounds like a name for many things, some of them quite improper. Onanistic gymnastics? With mastication? Is there something about a mast, about tics or other insects, or mass, or sticks, or no-no antics, or John Lennon’s second wife, or… oh, no mas. But, in fact, it is the study of proper names. Visually, this word has two halves with different styles: the rounds and mounds (with combs or fingers) of onom and the snaky shapes and sticks of astics. And in fact in origins it may be disassembled along similar lines: classical Greek onoma, “name,” transmuted into a verb, in past particle was onomastos and that in turn gained an ik for “of or belonging to,” to make onomastikos. The os was dropped to make the English adjective onomastic, which gained an s for the field of study. So when you buy a book of baby names – or wonder “Where the heck did that last name come from?” – there’s a name for that.
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