There are many characters found throughout English literature who become so closely associated with a certain trait, or traits, that their own name becomes synonymous with that trait. As you might expect, there’s a word for this: eponym, which is a literary character whose name conveys a quality associated with the character. Perhaps no other author has better distinguished himself with this ability than Charles Dickens. Mr. Dickens created characters that are known even by those who have never picked up a Dickens novel. He had a talent for encapsulating an exaggerated personality trait into a single individual in a way that was both memorable and endearing, even if the character him- or herself wasn’t so endearing. Today’s list is a top ten compilation of words that have made their way into the English language that are taken directly from Dickens’ characters.
1. Scrooge n. a selfish miser with a difficult, cantankerous personality; taken from Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
2. Fagin n. a villain who corrupts young children into a life of crime; from the character of the same name in Oliver Twist.
3. Pickwickian adj. 1. something that is unusually strange or odd; whimsical. 2. simple and kind. 3. of words or ideas, understood or interpreted in a manner that is different or peculiar from what is typical; from the character, Mr. Pickwick, in The Pickwick Papers.
4. Uriah Heap n. a person who is cruel, malicious, and hypocritically insincere; from the character of the same name in David Copperfield.
5. Gradgrind n. a cold and heartless person who is only interested in facts; from the character, Mr. Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times.
6. Micawber n. a person who is hopefully, and often naively, optimistic; from Wilkins Micawber in David Copperfield.
7. Chadband n. a smug, pious hypocrit, from the character in Bleak House of the same name.
8. Pecksniffian adj. hypocritically and unctuously benevolent; sanctimonious; from the character, Seth Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit. Also, Pecksniffish.
9. gamp n. British term for a large umbrella; from the character, Mrs. Sarah Gamp, in Martin Chuzzlewit, who invariably carried an umbrella wherever she went.
10. Podsnap n. from Our Mutual Friend, a person having an attitude marked by complacency and the willful ignoring of unpleasant facts.