Scary Characters Who Have Entered the English Language

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From sandwiches to wellington boots to the Nobel Prize, many words take their names from people or fictional characters, and these people and characters are known as eponyms. Today, to celebrate Halloween, we’re looking at three scary stories that have influenced the English language.



Mary Shelley published Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus in 1818 when she was just twenty years old. In the story, Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who has discovered a secret technique for creating life, tries to build a man. His creation ends up more like a monster and turns against him.

According to the Oxford English dictionary, it was the writer Charles Lamb who first used the title ‘Frankenstein’ as a verb meaning ‘to assemble for disparate parts’. Many people incorrectly assume that ‘Frankenstein’ is the monster’s name rather than the scientist’s and so the word is also sometimes used to refer to something that has become destructive to its maker.




You probably don’t remember Charles Perrault’s Bluebeard from your bedtime stories. This gruesome fairytale is about a young woman who disobeys her husband (a Duke with a blue beard) by entering a forbidden room. There, she finds the dead bodies of the Duke’s previous wives.The inspiration behind the seventeenth-century tale is sometimes said to be Gilles de Rais, a knight and lord of Brittany who was convicted as a serial killer. 

The term ‘Bluebeard’ is now used to refer to men who treat women badly, and ‘Bluebeard’s room’ is sometimes used to describe a place where someone keeps something secret.


Jekyll and Hyde

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is an 1886 novella by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (who is also famous for writing Treasure Island). The story follows Gabriel John Utterson, a lawyer from London, as he investigates his old friend Dr. Henry Jekyll and a man called Mr. Edward Hyde. We learn that Dr. Jekyll has discovered a serum which causes him to form a separate personality (that of Mr. Hyde) into which he channels his evil impulses.

The novella has often been linked with dissociative identity disorder. Today, the phrase ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ is used to describe a person or thing who displays two different moral sides to their character, changing from situation to situation.

If you enjoyed this article, why not take a look at our Halloween posts from previous years?

We have also looked at a variety of words with eponymous origins:

Have a great Halloween!

31 Oct 2015
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