Roman Names

Summary of Name Structure

The typical Roman had three names: the praenōmen (first name), the nōmen (gēns name), and the cōgnōmen (family name).

  • Mārcus Tullius Cicerō =
  • Mārcus (what’s up, Marcus?) +
  • Tullius (the time-honored descendants of Servius Tullius, 6th kind of Rome)
  • Cicero (the Cicero family, descended from some particular Tullian who earned the nickname ‘chickpea’)

A gēns is much larger than a family, and a Roman was more formally and less intimately attached to the name. ‘Mārcus Tullius Cicerō‘ may be compared to todays ‘John Proper III, descendant of James Black, Duke of York.’

  • On the day-to-day, he was just Mārcus Cicerō
  • When two members of the same family are mentioned together, the cōgnōmen is plural: Pūblius et Servius Sullae

What About Women?

No first names–no praenōmina, and no family names–no cōgnōmina.

  • Cicero’s daughter was Tullia
  • Further daughters would have been Tullia secundaTullia tertia, etc. 

The Essential AG: 108, 108b

Famous Phrase: nōmen est ōmen : the name is a sign

[tied with nominative determinism–the outlook that given names inform what we become and how we develop]