What does the idiom "make a name for oneself" mean?

The expression make a name for oneself is one of the idioms that often finds a place in our literature and enriches our language. However, its meaning is not fully understood, so it is sometimes used in the wrong situations. Please review the explanation carefully for the correct use of the make a name for oneself idiom.

Meaning of "make a name for oneself"


The idiom "make a name for oneself" refers to the act of achieving success in life, usually through accomplishment or notoriety. It usually implies a kind of fame or recognition. When someone has "made a name for themselves," they have become known for something, usually in a positive way. This can range from a minor kind of name recognition within a community to becoming well-known throughout the world.


The phrase "make a name for oneself" is thought to have originated in the Middle Ages, when a person's name was important in determining their social standing. A person of importance would be known to others by their full name, while a person of lesser status would only be known by one name or no name at all. Thus, to "make a name for oneself" would be to become well-known or respected, thereby gaining "status" or social standing.


Today, the phrase "make a name for oneself" is often used in a more literal sense to refer to becoming successful or well-known. When someone "makes a name for themselves," they have typically achieved success in some way, usually through hard work, talent, or luck. This could be earning a college degree, becoming a professional athlete, or starting a successful business. The phrase is also used to refer to gaining notoriety for negative behavior, such as committing a crime or participating in unsavory activities.

Example Sentences

  • After years of hard work, she had finally made a name for herself in the competitive world of finance.
  • The scandal caused him to make a name for himself, though not in a good way.
  • If you want to make a name for yourself in the music industry, you'll have to work hard and stay focused.

The meanings of the words in the "make a name for oneself" idiom

The universal role of idioms

"Kill two birds with one stone" is an English idiom that means to accomplish two things with a single action. In French, the similar idiom is "Faire d'une pierre deux coups," which translates to "To kill two birds with one stone." This idiom highlights the efficiency of completing two tasks with one action.


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