Choosing a Roman name

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The system of Roman names was unique and distinctive in the ancient world. A foreigner becoming a Roman citizen took a new Roman name as a mark of citizenship. In Nova Roma, too, we ask that you choose a Roman name when you become a citizen.

We encourage you to choose a personal, unique name to identify you, and to express your Roman identity, unique and indivitual to you. Please study this article diligently before you apply for citizenship.

The Censorial Office will approve any Roman name that follows the characteristics of classical Roman naming conventions, but we also highly encourage you to follow the ancient practice of the new citizens of the old Roman Empire, who, upon receiving Roman citizenship, latinized their own original foreign name to make it part of their Roman name. Latinizing your native name to make it your cognomen is the most Roman thing to do: please ask help from us and we will latinize your original name.

The name you choose is the name you will be known by in Nova Roma forever, because name change will not be allowed after the 90 days of probationary citizenship period has ended; so choose carefully and seriously. These pages, and other articles on our website, contain information to help you.

If, after reading everything below, you have any more questions, please contact the Censorial Office.


Before you start selecting the name

Before you would start thinking about the perfect Roman name for you, take into consideration that Nova Roma pays special attention to real family structure and Roman family system. Individual family branches, called domús, within the gens, are distinguished by the nomen-cognomen combination. If you like a certain nomen-cognomen combination, you should check it in our Album Civium if the same nomen-cognomen combination has already been taken by others. If it's already taken, you will have to request the family's approval that they acknowledge you as their relative. Nova Roman families usually welcome new members into their domus, but you might not want to belong to a virtual cousinhood. Therefore it's advisable to choose a nomen-cognomen combination that has not yet been taken, and to start your own domus. Learn more...

If you have your family members joining Nova Roma, please make sure so that your father, brother or sister take the same Roman family name, the nomen-cognomen combination as you, but your mother takes a different Roman family name than you. If you are a father, your children take the same Roman family name, but if you are a mother, make sure your children take your husband's Roman family name (or if he isn't a citizen, a Roman family name that could be your husband's if he were a citizen).

Another important thing to keep in mind is that Roman wives did not take their husbands' name: so, if you have a married name (a family name or surname adopted upon marriage) you should not take it into account when you search for your Roman name, but you always have to latinize or romanize your maiden name (your name before marriage).

Roman names

·Ancient Rome ·
Roman name - Praenomen - Nomen - Cognomen - Agnomen

·Nova Roma·
Choosing a Roman name - Using Roman names

Tria nomina

Typical Roman names of the late Republic had three parts (the "tria nomina"). Example: Gaius Iulius Caesar where:

  • Gaius is a praenomen ("given name", plural praenomina),
  • Iulius is a nomen ("gens or clan name", plural nomina), and
  • Caesar is a cognomen ("family name within a gens", plural cognomina).

Some names had no cognomen, but in other cases a second cognomen, (called an agnomen), was added. Female names could follow similar conventions, with a few differences. Additional elements such as tribal affiliation and "filiation" (parentage), were also sometimes used.

Roman family name

While the praenomen can be understood as the equivalent of modern first name, the nomen-cognomen combination represents the Roman surname or family name. This is a bit more complex than our modern surnames, because your Roman family name must have two parts: the nomen and the cognomen. The nomen is the name of your gens, the cognomen differentiates your family's branch or lineage within the gens. This nomen-cognomen combination makes up your Roman family name, or, more correctly, your domus (lineage or branch). Learn more...


List of Standard Praenomina
These are the standard praenomina,
from most common to least common.

Abbreviation Male
C. Gaius Gaia
L. Lucius Lucia
M. Marcus Marca
P. Publius Publia
Q. Quintus Quinta
T. Titus Tita
Ti. Tiberius Tiberia
Sex. Sextus Sexta
A. Aulus Aula
D. Decimus Decima
Cn. Gnaeus Gnaea
Sp. Spurius Spuria
M'. Manius Mania
Ser. Servius Servia
Ap. Appius Appia
N. Numerius Numeria

A praenomen, the first part of a Roman name, is a personal name which distinguishes an individual from other members of the same family. The praenomen is not normally used on its own: normally only close relatives or very close friends call each other by their praenomen.

There are only a small number of praenomina in ordinary use. These are used by the vast majority of Novi Romani, as they were by the vast majority of ancient Romans. There are also some rarer praenomina, most of them very old ones. If you have some good reason to want a rare praenomen, you may be allowed to have one, but such requests are very rarely granted and must be personally authorized by the Censorial Office. We strongly recommend that you choose one of the standard ones.

Even if it will be an important part of your Romanitas, we shall note that you will almost never be called by your praenomen. It was used only within family, and in society it served to indicate politeness when adding before the rest of the name (similarly to the function of "Mr" and "Mrs" today). What's more, women don't use their praenomen at all, except in extremely formal situations when you must pronounce your entire official name.

When choosing a Roman name you are advised to try to find out whether any particular traditions are followed within the gens you wish to join. This can be done, for example, by contacting existing members and by looking at information about gentes on this website.


A nomen gentilicium indicates which gens a Roman belongs to. A gens is a loose collection of families sharing the same nomen. It is the middle part of the tria nomina, i.e., the three-part Roman name.

In ancient times a new citizen would almost always join an existing gens, and similarly in Nova Roma we ask you to choose a nomen from a closed list. Many ancient Roman nomina which are not listed here may also be acceptable. If you want to use a nomen which is not on this list, but it is attested in Roman sources, the Censorial Office will consider your request (please read about unhistorical or unattested gentes).


































































































































A cognomen is a family name which would be shared by a group of blood relatives within the same gens. Cognomina often, but not always, referred to a person's appearance or other characteristics. It was also common to have a cognomen referring to a place of birth, a job, or some other thing which distinguished the person (usually an ancestor) who first bore that cognomen.

Almost everyone has a cognomen, and it is difficult to distinguish different families within a gens unless cognomina are used. However, strictly speaking, cognomina are not compulsory. If you don't choose one when you first apply for citizenship, you will still be able to add one later.

The Censorial Office will accept only authentic Roman cognomina, which does not mean that you may not use "innovations". New words, that were never used as cognomina in ancient Rome, will also be accepted if they follow the characteristics of the genuine Roman cognomina. What words can be, then, accepted as your cognomen?

1. Attested ancient Roman cognomina from the Roman republican period;
2. Latin words
a) describing your geographical or ethnic origin;
b) describing your occupation;
c) describing your physical or personality traits: these must be, according to the principles of Roman cognomina, objective rather than subjective, concrete rather than abstract, and neutral or insulting rather than complimentary.
3. Latinization of your native (real) name: this happens with the help of the Onomastic Advisory Board of the Censorial Office, consisting of Latinists, and they will give you the etymologically correct and researched latinization of your real name.

Some suggestions before you start thinking on your cognomen:

We discourage taking typical cognomina of very popular and extremely famous Roman historical characters like

  • Caesar, Cato, Cicero, Scipio, Sulla etc.

and some other popular nicely ringing names that are very much overused in Roman communities, like

  • Agricola, Agrippa, Aquila, Aquilinus, Corvus, Lupus, Marcellus, Metellus, Severus.

You are encouraged to choose a unique name to identify you, but the most Roman thing to do is to incorporate the latinized version of your own name into your new Roman tria nomina: you can ask help from the Censorial Office here.

It is important to understand that a cognomen is not a way for you to express your innermost thoughts or aspirations, or to boast about your wonderful qualities. It is just a name.

Attested ancient Roman cognomina

To help you choose a cognomen, there is a list of ancient Roman cognomina below. But this is not a complete list - there were thousands of other cognomina which aren't listed here. If you want to have an ancient Roman cognomen from the republican period which is not on the list below, we will be happy to discuss this with you. A cognomen used in the ancient republic will normally be acceptable except special or honorary cognomina. Discuss your request with the Censorial Office.

Geographical or occupational cognomina

Names referring to whole countries or provinces (e.g. Hispanus, "man from Hispania") are not normally allowed because they are not distinctive enough: if everyone in Hispania were called Hispanus, it would be very confusing! But such names may be appropriate if you live away from your native country (e.g. a citizen from Hispania living in America might be called Hispanus).

If you would like to use a geographical or occupational cognomen, the Censorial Office will work with you to find an appropriate one.

Other Latin words

The Romans often created new cognomina, and so long as it complies with the general characteristics of cognomina noted below, you are also entitled to request a new cognomen which wasn't used or isn't attested in ancient sources.

Many ordinary Latin nouns and adjectives can be used as cognomina. Please make sure the Latin word you choose follows these characteristics of republican cognomina: it must be objective rather than subjective, concrete rather than abstract, and neutral or insulting rather than complimentary. It can be an adjective describing physical or personality traits, occupation, place or ethnic of origin. Nouns may also became cognomen by metonymy, for example, instead of calling a small man Paullus ("Little"), he can take the cognomen Mus ("Mouse"), because a mouse is little. Among nouns, names of animals and plants (Lupus - wolf, Corvus - crow, Cicero - chick pea), objects, especially tools (Scipio - rod, Dolabella - hatchet, Malleolus - hammer) and parts of the body (Ahala - armpit, Barba - beard, Costa - rib) may be acceptable.

If there is some particular Latin word you would like to use as a cognomen, or if you would like a cognomen with a particular meaning, the censorial scribes will work with you to find an appropriate name. Write to the Censorial Office and ask their assistance.

Latinizing your own name

Often when a foreigner became a Roman citizen in ancient times he would keep his old name as a cognomen, adjusting it to make it easier for Latin-speakers to say and giving it a Latin ending. This is also a common option in Nova Roma.

If you choose this option, you can use either your first name or your surname, or both. If you use both, they will be put in reverse order. For example, Robert Grant would take the cognomina Grandis Robertus. This is because in a Roman name the second cognomen is more individual than the first.

If you would like to use a Latin form of your own name, the Onomastic Advisory Board of the Censorial Office will work with you to find the appropriate form if you contact the Censorial Office.

Multiple cognomina

In some cases it may be appropriate to have more than one cognomen. This is normally only allowed where you use a Latinized form of your own name, but may also be appropriate if you are joining a family which contains a large number of people who all have the same nomen and cognomen. If you think you have a good reason to want more than one cognomen, the censorial scribes will discuss it with you.


Under some circumstances Romans were given an additional cognomen, called an agnomen. These were the exception to the general rule that cognomina were not complimentary.

There are several types of agnomen which serve a particular purpose and which are therefore not available for new citizens:

Adoptive agnomina 
When a Roman citizen is adopted by another, he takes the name of his adoptive father, but adds a special cognomen to indicate his former identity. This cognomen is formed from his old nomen, with the -ius ending replaced with an -ianus ending. For example, when L. Aemilius Paullus was adopted by P. Cornelius Scipio he became P. Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus.
Honorific agnomina 
Sometimes very eminent Romans were given honorific cognomina in recognition of their great achievements. These were the exception to the general rule that cognomina were not complimentary. Such honorific cognomina are called agnomina. Obviously a person cannot give himself an agnomen: it is always given by others. Honorific cognomina like Germanicus or Britannicus do not refer to a place of origin but to a military achievement. If someone is called Britannicus it means he won a great victory against the Britons. Names like this are not allowed, for obvious reasons.
Matronymic agnomina 
In very rare cases a Roman might use an extra cognomen formed from his mother's nomen. The -ia ending was replaced with an -ianus ending or an -inus ending. For example, M. Porcius Cato had one son by his first wife Licinia, and another son by his second wife Salonia. Each son was called M. Porcius Cato. To tell them apart, people called them M. Porcius Cato Licinianus and M. Porcius Cato Salonianus.

Male Form Female Form Status Meaning Used especially by
Aculeo Aculeo Prickly, unfriendly
Agricola Agricola OVERUSED Farmer
Agrippa Agrippa OVERUSED Born feet first Gens Menenia
Ahala Ahala Armpit Gens Servilia
Ahenobarbus Ahenobarba With a red beard Gens Domitia
Albinus Albina Pale, white Gens Postumia
Albus Alba White or fair-skinned Gens Postumia
Ambustus Ambusta SUGGESTED Burnt, scalded Gens Fabia
Annalis Annalis Relating to years Gens Villia
Aquila Aquila OVERUSED Eagle
Aquilinus Aquilina OVERUSED Eagle-like
Arvina Arvina Fat, lard Gens Cornelia
Asellio Asellio Keeper of donkeys Gens Sempronia
Asina Asina Female donkey Gens Cornelia
Atellus Atella Dark-haired or dark skinned
Avitus Avita Grandfatherly
Balbus Balba SUGGESTED Stutterer Gentes Acilia, Cornelia, Lucilia, Naevia, Octavia
Barba Barba A beard
Barbatus Barbata OVERUSED Bearded Gentes Cornelia, Horatia, Quinctia
Bassus Bassa Plump
Bestia Bestia Like an animal Gens Calpurnia
Bibaculus Bibacula SUGGESTED Drunkard Gentes Furia, Sextia
Bibulus Bibula SUGGESTED Drunkard Gentes Calpurnia, Publicia
Blaesus Blaesa SUGGESTED Someone who mispronounces words, slurs his speech, stammers, or lisps Gens Sempronia
Brocchus Broccha SUGGESTED Toothy
Brutus Bruta Stupid, dull-witted Gens Iunia
Bubulcus Bubulca SUGGESTED Cattle-driver Gens Iunia
Bucco Bucco SUGGESTED Fool, dolt
Bulbus Bulba SUGGESTED Bulb, onion Gens Atilia
Buteo Buteo Buzzard Gens Fabia
Caecus Caeca Blind Gens Claudia
Caepio Caepio Onion-seller Gens Servilia
Caesar Caesar DISCOURAGED From archaic praenomen Caesar, perhaps meaning "hairy" Gens Iulia
Calidus Calida Hot-headed, rash Gens Coelia
Calvinus Calvina From cognomen Calvus Gentes Domitia, Veturia
Calvus Calva SUGGESTED Bald
Camillus Camilla A child who helps during sacrifices Gens Furia
Caninus Canina OVERUSED Dog-like Gens Acilia
Canus Cana Golden-haired or grey-haired
Capito Capito SUGGESTED Big-headed Gens Ateia
Carbo Carbo Charcoal Gens Papirii
Catilina Catilina Gens Sergia
Cato Cato DISCOURAGED Shrewd, prudent Gentes Hostilia, Porcia
Catulus Catula Puppy, whelp Gens Lutatia
Celer Celeris Quick
Celsus Celsa Tall Gens Papia
Cethegus Cethega Gens Cornelia
Cicero Cicero DISCOURAGED Chick pea Gens Tullia
Cicurinus Cicurina Mild, gentle Gens Veturia
Cilo Cilo SUGGESTED Large forehead or large lips Gens Flaminia
Cincinnatus Cincinnata Curly-haired Gens Quinctia
Cinna Cinna Gens Cornelia
Cordus Corda Born late
Cornicen Cornicen Military bugler
Cornutus Cornuta Horned Gens Caecilia, Sulpicia
Corvinus Corvina Crow-like Gens Valeria
Corvus Corva OVERUSED Crow Gens Valeria
Cossus Cossa From archaic praenomen Cossus Gens Cornelia
Costa Costa A rib Gens Pedania
Cotta Cotta Gens Aurelia
Crassipes Crassipes SUGGESTED Club-footed Gens Furia
Crassus Crassa OVERUSED Fat Gentes Claudia, Licinia, Otacilia, Veturia
Crispinus Crispina Curly-haired
Crispus Crispa Curly-haired Gentes Sallustia, Vibia
Culleo Culleo SUGGESTED Leather sack for carrying liquid Gens Terentia
Curio Curio SUGGESTED Priest of a Curia Gens Scribonia
Cursor Cursor Runner, courier Gens Papiria
Curvus Curva Stooping, bent Gens Fulvia
Dentatus Dentata SUGGESTED Toothy
Denter Dentra SUGGESTED Toothy Gens Caecilia
Dento Dento SUGGESTED Toothy
Dives Dives Rich, wealthy Gens Licinia
Dolabella Dolabella Hatchet Gens Cornelia
Dorsuo Dorsuo SUGGESTED Large back Gens Fabia
Drusus Drusa Gens Livia
Figulus Figula SUGGESTED Potter
Fimbria Fimbria Edge of clothing, fringes Gens Flavia
Flaccus Flacca SUGGESTED Floppy ears Gentes Aviania, Fulvia, Valeria
Flavus Flava Blonde-haired Gens Decimia
Florus Flora Light-coloured or blooming Gens Aquilia
Fronto Fronto SUGGESTED Prominent forehead
Fullo Fullo SUGGESTED A fuller or launderer Gens Apustia
Fusus Fusa From archaic praenomen Fusus Gens Furia
Galeo Galeo Helmet
Gemellus Gemella A twin Gentes Servilia, Veturia
Glabrio Glabrio A relative of Glaber Gens Acilia
Gracchus Graccha Gens Sempronia
Gurges Gurges Greedy, prodigal Gens Fabia
Habitus Habita In good physical condition Gens Cluentia
Helva Helva SUGGESTED Dun-colored hair Gens Aebutia
Imperiosus Imperiosa DISCOURAGED Domineering, dictatorial Gens Manlia
Iullus Iulla From archaic praenomen Iullus Gens Iulia
Labeo Labeo Prominent lips Gentes Antistia, Atinia, Fabia
Lactuca Lactuca Lettuce Gens Valeria
Laenas Laenas A woolly cloak Gens Popillia
Lanatus Lanata Wearing wool Gens Menenia
Laevinus Laevina
Laterensis Laterensis Person from the hill-side Gens Iuventia
Lentulus Lentula A bit slow Gens Cornelia
Lepidus Lepida OVERUSED Charming, amusing Gens Aemilia
Libo Libo SUGGESTED Gens Marcia, Scribonia
Licinus Licina SUGGESTED Spiky- or bristly-haired Gens Mamilia
Longus Longa SUGGESTED Tall Gentes Sempronia, Sulpicia
Lucullus Luculla From lucus (grove) or Lucius (praenomen) Gens Licinia
Lupus Lupa OVERUSED Wolf Gens Rutilia
Lurco Lurco SUGGESTED Gluttonous, greedy
Macer Macra SUGGESTED Thin Gens Licinia
Macula Macula SUGGESTED A spot or blemish
Malleolus Malleola Hammer Gens Publicia
Mamercus Mamerca From rare praenomen Mamercus Gens Aemilia
Marcellus Marcella OVERUSED From praenomen Marcus Gens Claudia
Maro Maro SUGGESTED Gens Vergilia
Merenda Merenda SUGGESTED Light afternoon meal Gentes Antonia, Cornelia
Mergus Merga SUGGESTED Sea-gull
Merula Merula Blackbird Gens Cornelia
Messalla Messalla Gens Valeria
Metellus Metella OVERUSED Army follower Gens Caecilia
Murena Murena Eel Gens Licinia
Mus Mus SUGGESTED Mouse or rat Gens Decia
Musca Musca SUGGESTED Fly Gens Sempronia
Nasica Nasica Big-nosed Gens Sempronia
Naso Naso SUGGESTED Big-nosed Gens Ovidia
Natta Natta SUGGESTED An artisan Gens Pinaria
Nepos Nepos Grandchild Gens Caecilia
Nero Nero From rare praenomen Nero ("strong") Gens Claudia
Nerva Nerva Vigorous Gens Cocceia, Licinia
Niger Nigra SUGGESTED Black-skinned or black-haired
Novellus Novella New, new-fangled Gens Gavilia
Ocella Ocella SUGGESTED Small-eyed Gens Livia
Pacilus Pacila SUGGESTED From archaic praenomen Pacilus Gens Furia
Paetus Paeta SUGGESTED Squinty or blinking Gens Aelia
Pansa Pansa SUGGESTED Splay-footed Gens Vibia
Papus Papa SUGGESTED From rare praenomen Papus Gens Aemilia
Paterculus Patercula SUGGESTED Little father Gens Sulpicia
Paullus Paulla Small Gens Aemilia
Pavo Pavo Peacock
Pera Pera SUGGESTED Shoulder-bag Gens Iunia
Pictor Pictrix Painter Gens Fabia
Piso Piso Mortar Gens Calpurnia
Plancus Planca Flat-footed Gens Munatia
Plautus Plauta SUGGESTED Flat-footed
Poplicola Poplicola Friend of the people Gens Valeria
Postumus Postuma Born after the father's death Gens Curtia
Potitus Potita Probably derived from an archaic praenomen Gens Valeria
Praeconinus Praeconina SUGGESTED A relative of a herald
Praetextatus Praetextata Young (wearing the toga praetexta) Gens Sulpicia
Priscus Prisca Very ancient
Proculus Procula From rare praenomen Proculus, perhaps meaning "born during father's absence" Gens Plautia
Publicola Publicola Variant of Poplicola Gens Valeria
Pulcher Pulchra Attractive Gens Claudia
Pullus Pulla SUGGESTED Child
Pulvillus Pulvilla SUGGESTED Small cushion Gens Horatia
Purpureo Purpureo SUGGESTED Wearing purple or with a purplish complexion
Quadratus Quadrata Stocky, squarely built
Ralla Ralla SUGGESTED A tunic of fine fabric Gens Marcia
Regillus Regilla Prince Gens Aemilia
Regulus Regula OVERUSED Prince Gens Atilia
Rufus Rufa Reddish, Ginger-haired
Ruga Ruga SUGGESTED Wrinkly
Rullus Rulla SUGGESTED Uncultivated, boorish Gens Servilia
Rutilus Rutila Reddish-gold hair
Salinator Salinatrix Salt-harvester Gens Livia
Saturninus Saturnina Dedicated to Saturnus
Scaeva Scaeva Left-handed Gens Iunia, Marcia
Scaevola Scaevola Left-handed Gens Mucia
Scapula Scapula SUGGESTED Shoulder-blade Gens Quinctia
Scaurus Scaura Lame, swollen-ankled Gentes Aemilia, Aurelia
Scipio Scipio DISCOURAGED Rod, staff Gens Cornelii
Scrofa Scrofa SUGGESTED Sow Gens Tremelia
Seneca Seneca Elderly Gens Annaea
Severus Severa OVERUSED Strict, severe
Silanus Silana Nose, water-spout Gens Iunia
Silo Silo SUGGESTED Snub-nosed Gens Sergia
Silus Sila SUGGESTED Snub-nosed Gens Sergia
Stolo Stolo SUGGESTED Shoot of a plant Gens Licinia
Strabo Strabo Squinty Gens Titia
Structus Structa Possibly derived from an archaic praenomen Gens Servilia
Sulla Sulla DISCOURAGED Gens Cornelia
Sura Sura SUGGESTED Calf of the leg
Taurus Taura Bull
Triarius Triaria OVERUSED A type of soldier Gens Valeria
Trigeminus Trigemina A triplet Gens Curiatia
Trio Trio SUGGESTED One of the seven stars of the Plough / Big Dipper Gens Lucretia
Tubero Tubero SUGGESTED Having a tumour or swelling Gens Aelia, Iulia
Tubertus Tuberta SUGGESTED Having a tumour or swelling Gens Postumia
Tubulus Tubula SUGGESTED Little tube Gens Hostilia
Tuditanus Tuditana SUGGESTED Mallet Gens Sempronia
Tullus Tulla From rare praenomen Tullus Gens Volcatia
Turdus Turda SUGGESTED Thrush Gens Papiria
Varro Varro Block-head Gens Terentia
Varus Vara Bow-legged Gentes Atilia, Licinia, Quinctilia
Vatia Vatia Knock-kneed Gens Servilia
Verres Verres Pig Gens Cornelia
Vespillo Vespillo Person employed to bury people too poor for a funeral Gens Lucretia
Vetus Vetus Old Gens Antistia
Vitulus Vitula Calf or young cow Gentes Mamilia, Pomponia
Volusus Volusa From rare praenomen Volusus Gens Valeria

How to use Roman names

What follows here is short guidance on how to use Roman names. The way you will have to use your Roman name and how others will address you may influence your decision when selecting the perfect Roman name for you; so this is a must to read by anone who is about to chose his Roman name. For more information about the rules of using Roman names, read our longer and more detailed description "Using Roman names".

How many names?

As a general rule, the more formal the context, the more names are used. The use of all three (or more) names is very formal. Calling someone M. Tullius Cicero is roughly equivalent to calling someone Mr Robert James Grant, Esquire. Two names are normally enough to make it clear who you are talking to or about.

Which names you call someone by depends partly on how many names you are using.

Two names

Using two names is formal and polite. Calling someone M. Tullius is roughly equivalent to calling someone Robert Grant or Mr Grant. When you mention someone for the first time in a speech or a letter, or when greeting someone, it is common to use two names.

When calling someone by two names, which names you use depends on the status of the person you're naming. If the person is a nobilis, it is proper to call him by his praenomen and cognomen, e.g. P. Scipio. If he is a homo novus, one would normally call him by his praenomen and nomen, e.g. M. Tullius. Most people in Nova Roma are homines novi, so most people are normally called by their praenomen and nomen.

There is a difference in the use of female names: female praenomina are never used. If a woman is named by using two names, these must be the nomen and the cognomen, never the praenomen. In ancient Rome, women didn't have praenomina, or never used it. We know of only a handful of cases when they had, mostly Vestal Virgins, but Nova Roma decided to require the adoption of praenomen for our female citizens in order underline gender equality in our modern Roman commonwealth.

One name

Use of one name is relatively relaxed and informal. If you already in the middle of a conversation with someone, or in the middle of talking about someone, you might well call him by just one name, especially if you know him reasonably well. Calling someone Cicero is roughly equivalent to calling someone Robert. But in formal situations or when first mentioning someone, using only one name may be over-familiar and could be impolite.

When calling someone by only one name, it is normal to use the nomen or cognomen for males, and the nomen for females. A nobilis should always be called by his cognomen. A homo novus is normally called by his nomen unless the frequency of this particular nomen would make it unclear who you are talking about. Where a person has more than one cognomen, you should normally use the first one.

The praenomen is essentially a private name, for use within the family. You should not call a Roman by just his praenomen unless he is your close relative or very, very close friend. Even spouses do not generally call each other by their praenomina alone - they generally use nomina or cognomina.

Latin vocatives

When you call someone by name, you have to use the vocative case and change the ending of the name to indicate that you are talking to the person, not about him. As a general rule, names ending in -us take an ending -e (e.g. Brutus -> Brute), though names ending in -ius turn to -i (e.g. Tullius -> Tulli). Names ending in -a and names with other endings do not change at all.

You may notice some people using vocative endings when they are talking about someone in the third person (e.g. "I was talking to Brute yesterday"). Don't be confused - you are right, they are wrong.

Addresses other than names

Some modern Latin-speakers use "dominus" and "domina" as equivalents of English "Mr" and "Miss" or "Mrs". This is strongly discouraged. "Dominus" means "lord" or "master", and addressing someone in this way is very servile and grovelling. Expressing respect, honor and formality is possibly by the use of praenomen before the nomen or cognomen, as it has been described above in the section "Two names".

Though Romans do not generally go in for titles in a big way, it is not uncommon to call a consul by the title "Consul", for example, especially when speaking in a political context or discussing business relevant to the office. Likewise one may call one's patron by the title "patronus".

Most of the time people who know each other but are not especially close call each other by name, sometimes with "mi" (or "mea" for addressing a woman). Sometimes they will use brief descriptions, e.g. iuvenis (young man), amicus (friend), senex (old man).

More about using Roma names


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