Denominatio is the substantivized form of denominative, which was the Latin translation of Aristotle's παρώνυμα, from which we also derive the English “paronym” (Aristotle, Categories I.1a13–14). “Extrinsic denomination” (extrinseca denominatio) refers to instances of naming where a relation that a thing bears to something outside itself supports using the name, while an “intrinsic denomination” is an instance of naming where a property of the thing itself is the support (see, e.g., Aquinas, Contra gentiles II.13). References to intrinsic and extrinsic denominations frequently appear in Scholastic disputes over the names attributed to both God and his creation – for example, do names mean the same thing when predicated of the two? Less controversial was Aristotle's example of “healthy.” An animal is intrinsically denominated “healthy” because health belongs to the animal itself. Food, however, is extrinsically denominated “healthy” because it bears a causal relation to the healthy animal – that is, it makes the animal “healthy.” Urine was likewise extrinsically denominated “healthy” because it bears a semiotic relation to the healthy animal – that is, it is a sign of the animal's health.
This example reveals two further points about extrinsic denomination worth noting. First, in cases of extrinsic denomination there is a primary meaning of a name – for example, “healthy” when applied to an animal – from which all related uses derive. Little surprise then that extrinsic denominations were identified with analogies, and particularly analogies of attribution or “denominatio per attributionem” (Suárez, Disputationes metaphysicae XX–VII, sec. III. §4). Second, although there was disagreement over some of the nuances surrounding extrinsic denominations, what remained constant was the understanding that an extrinsic denomination was not the same as a false attribution. Thus, not only does an extrinsic denomination contrast with an intrinsic denomination, but it also contrasts with arbitrary or purely contingent acts of naming.
In Descartes’ work, “extrinsic denomination” (misleadingly rendered “extraneous label” in the CSM translation) makes two appearances – one in the Sixth Meditation and the other in the Objections and Replies in response to Caterus's worries over “objective being” (AT VII 85, 102; CSM II 59, 74). In both cases, Descartes shows himself well aware of the meaning of “extrinsic denomination.” Consider just the Sixth Meditation, where Descartes discusses the predication of “nature.”