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Roman naming conventions

Roman naming conventions

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By the Republican era
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 and throughout the Imperial era
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

, a name
Name
A name is a word or term used for identification. Names can identify a class or category of things, or a single thing, either uniquely, or within a given context. A personal name identifies a specific unique and identifiable individual person, and may or may not include a middle name...

 in ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 for a male citizen consisted of three parts (tria nomina): praenomen
Praenomen
The praenomen was a personal name chosen by the parents of a Roman child. It was first bestowed on the dies lustricus , the eighth day after the birth of a girl, or the ninth day after the birth of a boy...

 (given name), nomen (or nomen gentile or simply gentilicium, being the name of the gens
Gens
In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

 or clan
Clan
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a...

) and cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

 (name of a family line within the gens). Sometimes a second or third cognomen, called agnomen, was added. The nomen, and later, cognomen were virtually always hereditary. This system was derived from the Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

.

Females were officially known by the feminine form of their father's nomen gentile, followed by the genitive case
Genitive case
In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

 of their father's (husband's if married) cognomen and an indication of order among sisters. By the late Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

, women sometimes also adopted the feminine of their father's cognomen. A woman usually did not have the praenomen and agnomen, unless the parents chose to give her those.

History


In the early regal period
Roman Kingdom
The Roman Kingdom was the period of the ancient Roman civilization characterized by a monarchical form of government of the city of Rome and its territories....

 of Rome, it appears that people were at first referred to by one name (e.g., Romulus
Romulus
- People:* Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of Rome* Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman Emperor* Valerius Romulus , deified son of the Roman emperor Maxentius* Romulus , son of the Western Roman emperor Anthemius...

, Manius
Manius
Manius is a Roman praenomen. It was probably derived from Latin word "māne" 'morning' and meant "born in the morning". This praenomen wasn't commonly used.Some notable Romans using this praenomen include:...

). As Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 grew in area and population, a second, family name came into use. By the earliest days of the Republic, every member of a household had at least two names—praenomen, and the genitive form of the pater familias
Pater familias
The pater familias, also written as paterfamilias was the head of a Roman family. The term is Latin for "father of the family" or the "owner of the family estate". The form is irregular and archaic in Latin, preserving the old genitive ending in -as...

 name, which became a fixed and inherited nomen.

This binomial nomenclature was unique among Indo-European languages of that era. Also, the core part of the name (nomen) was the inherited gens
Gens
In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

 name, not the given name (praenomen). This is probably why so few different praenomina were used.

Later in the Republic a cognomen was added to distinguish families within a gens
Gens
In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

, as the importance of the gens grew and the size of voting tribes required this differentiation. Thus patricians (nobility) commonly had three names (Tria Nomina). Although this system dates to the later 5th century BC, it was slow to take root, as it does not appear in official documents until the late 2nd century BC and was not common until the time of Sulla, right before the Empire. It was adopted even more slowly by non-patricians; the first examples of cognomina for plebeians date to c. 125 BC and it was not popular for another century.

In the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 (Eastern Roman Empire), old Roman naming conventions were gradually replaced by Greek ones, although Roman names themselves would have continuing influence.

Praenomen


The praenomen, equivalent to given name
Given name
A given name, in Western contexts often referred to as a first name, is a personal name that specifies and differentiates between members of a group of individuals, especially in a family, all of whose members usually share the same family name...

s nowadays, was chosen by the parents (often with the pater familias naming male infants after himself). There was, however, a very limited selection of praenomina, such as Gaius, Gnaeus, Marcus, Quintus, Publius, Tiberius, and Titus. As a result, men from a given family often have identical names for generations. It was therefore necessary to use other names (cognomen and later, agnomen) to distinguish between individuals. Only intimates would use the praenomen.

Nomen



The second name, or nomen gentile (usually simply nomen), rarely gentilicium, is the name of the gens
Gens
In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

 (the family clan), in masculine form for men. The original gentes were descended from the family groups that settled Rome. These eventually developed into entire clans, which covered specific geographic regions. As the area of Rome expanded, the number of tribes also expanded. This meant that not all tribes were from original settlers. Some were named for Etruscan
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

 families, while others were from local tribes or from major geographical features, such as rivers. Well-known nomina include many of the familiar names of ancient Rome, such as Aemilius, Claudius
Claudius (gens)
The gens Claudia, sometimes written Clodia, was one of the most prominent patrician houses at Rome. The gens traced its origin to the earliest days of the Roman Republic...

, Cornelius, Domitius, Julius
Julius
The gens Julia was one of the most ancient patrician families at Ancient Rome. Members of the gens attained the highest dignities of the state in the earliest times of the Republic. The first of the family to obtain the consulship was Gaius Julius Iulus in 489 BC...

, Junius, Pompeius
Pompeius
Pompeius , sometimes anglicized as Pompey, is the nomen of the gens Pompeia, an important family of ancient Rome from the Italian region of Picenum, which lies between the Apennines and the Adriatic...

, Antonius
Antonius
Antonius is the nomen of the gens Antonia, one of the most important plebeian families at Rome. It is also the source of the English personal name Anthony, as well as a number of similar names in various European languages....

, Didius
Didius
Didius was a nomen of Ancient Rome. The gens Didia was of plebeian status. Notable individuals include:* Titus Didius, Roman politician and general of the 1st century BC....

 and Valerius
Valerius
Valerius is the nomen of gens Valeria, one of the oldest patrician families of Rome. The name was in use throughout Roman history...

.

Cognomen


The third name, or cognomen, began as a nickname or personal name that distinguished individuals with the same names. Cognomina do not appear in official documents until around 100 BC. Often the cognomen was chosen based on some physical or personality trait, sometimes with ironic
Irony
Irony is a rhetorical device, literary technique, or situation in which there is a sharp incongruity or discordance that goes beyond the simple and evident intention of words or actions...

 results: Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

's cognomen, in one interpretation, meant hairy (cf. etymology of the name of Julius Caesar
Etymology of the name of Julius Caesar
The name Caesar probably originated from a dialect of Latium which did not share the rhotacism of the Roman dialect. Using the Latin alphabet as it existed in the day of Julius Caesar , Caesar's name is properly rendered GAIVS IVLIVS CAESAR The name Caesar probably originated from a dialect of...

) although he was balding
Baldness
Baldness implies partial or complete lack of hair and can be understood as part of the wider topic of "hair thinning". The degree and pattern of baldness can vary greatly, but its most common cause is male and female pattern baldness, also known as androgenic alopecia, alopecia androgenetica or...

, and Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

' cognomen meant silent, while he was a well-known orator. However, from the Republican era, many cognomina were no longer nicknames, but instead were passed from father to son, serving to distinguish a family within a gens (and frequently requiring an agnomen to distinguish people of the same family if they shared praenomen as well as nomen and cognomen).

During the empire period the cognomen varied within families in order to identify individuals within the family. This can be seen clearly in the family tree of the emperor Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

, where additional cognomina are generated for sons from the names of women who marry into the family. The family tree is as follows:
  • grandfather: Titus Flavius Petro
  • father: Titus Flavius Sabinus (married Vespasia Polla)
  • elder brother: Titus Flavius Sabinus
  • Vespasian: Titus Flavius Vespasianus (married Flavia Domitilla
    Domitilla the Elder
    Flavia Domitilla Major Flavia Domitilla the Elder or Domitilla the Elder was the wife of the Roman Emperor Vespasian. She was a daughter of Flavius Liberalis, a humble quaestor’s clerk. Before her marriage, she was a formal mistress to an African knight. Vespasian married her around 38...

    )
  • eldest son: Titus
    Titus
    Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

     Flavius Vespasianus
  • youngest son: Titus Flavius Domitian
    Domitian
    Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

    us
  • daughter: Domitilla the Younger
    Domitilla the Younger
    Flavia Domitilla the Younger or Flavia Domitilla Minor was the only daughter of the Roman Emperor Vespasian and Flavia Domitilla the Elder. Her elder brother was Titus, and her younger brother Domitian...


Nomen-derived names


Some males had a cognomen that ends in -anus, which was adapted from and commemorated a nomen, sometimes their maternal family or—if they were adopted—their original paternal family. For instance, Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

's nomen (Flavius) came from his father's nomen. His cognomen (Vespasianus), on the other hand, was derived from his mother's nomen, Vespasia. Others had cognomina that were derived not from the nomen, but the cognomen of their mothers' families. For instance, Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

's maternal grandfather was Julius Bassianus
Julius Bassianus
Gaius Julius Bassianus or Bassus, also known as Julius Bassianus was a Syrian, who lived in the 2nd century and 3rd century. Bassianus was a high priest for the Temple of the Sun, which was adored in a shape of a black stone. The Aramaean Sun God in Aramaic is El-Gabal. Bassianus was a member of...

, but Caracalla's cognomen was not Julianus, but rather Bassianus as well.

When a man was adopted into another family, he would take on his adoptive father's names (excluding the praenomen). If he chose to, he could turn his original nomen into an additional cognomen that followed his newly gained names. For example, these adoptees incorporated into their new names their adopted family's nomen and cognomen, and also kept their birth family's nomen:
  • Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus
    Scipio Aemilianus Africanus
    Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus Africanus Numantinus , also known as Scipio Aemilianus or Scipio Africanus the Younger, was a leading general and politician of the ancient Roman Republic...

    : Publius was adopted into the Cornelii Scipiones, but was born an Aemilius.
  • Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus
    Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus
    Mamercus Aemilius Lepidus Livianus, was a Roman politician and military commander who was consul in 77 BC.-Biography:Livianus was a well connected and influential figure in Late Republican politics. A member of the aristocratic party, brother of the tribune Marcus Livius Drusus and son of Marcus...

    : Mamercus was born a Livius, adopted into Aemilii Lepidi.


Not all adoptees chose to identify their birth families. For instance, as an adult, Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

 did not use his cognomen Octavianus (shortened to Octavian), since the gens Octavia was not nearly as esteemed as the Julii. (See also: Adoption in Rome.)

Agnomen


After the cognomen became hereditary and lost its function as a nickname, a second nickname, or agnomen, was appended to the name after birth—usually not immediately—to signify some personal characteristic or accomplishment. A common agnomen was Pius, for someone who displayed virtues like honesty, reverence to the gods, or devotion to family and state. Superbus ("Proud") and Pulcher ("Handsome") were also examples of agnomina.

Unlike the nomen and cognomen, an agnomen was usually not inherited unless the son also had the same attribute or did the same deeds, although some victory agnomina like Augustus ("Majestic") and Germanicus ("the German (Conqueror)") eventually became handed down as additional cognomina.

It may also have been the case that some families used an agnomen in order to distinguish individuals, especially when there was a famous cognomen which they wanted all their sons to be able to bear. This is evident in the Valerius Messalla family tree where the following names are to be found:
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger was a senator of the Roman Republic.He was praetor in the year of Cicero's consulship, 63 BC, and consul in 61, the year in which Publius Clodius profaned the mysteries of the Bona Dea, and Gnaeus Pompeius triumphed for his several victories over the Cilician pirates,...

     (consul in 61 BC)
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus was a Roman general, author and patron of literature and art.-Family:He was the son of politician Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger Although, some dispute his parentage and claim another descendant of Marcus Valerius Corvus to be his father.Messalla Corvinus is...

     (64 BC–AD 8)
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Messallinus was the son of the Roman famous orator Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus, whom he resembled in character, and wife Calpurnia.He was a senator and consul in 3 BC and AD 3...

     (consul AD 3)
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Barbatus was a consul of ancient Rome. He was the father of the Roman Empress Valeria Messalina, great-nephew of the Emperor Augustus, and father-in-law to the Emperor Claudius....

     (11 BC–AD 20/21)
  • Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus
    Marcus Valerius Messalla Corvinus was a Roman general, author and patron of literature and art.-Family:He was the son of politician Marcus Valerius Messalla Niger Although, some dispute his parentage and claim another descendant of Marcus Valerius Corvus to be his father.Messalla Corvinus is...

     (consul in AD 58)


Names adapted from nomina (with the -anus suffix) are sometimes considered agnomina. Priscian
Priscian
Priscianus Caesariensis , commonly known as Priscian, was a Latin grammarian. He wrote the Institutiones grammaticae on the subject...

 specifically cites Claudianus and Aemilianus as examples.

Foreign names


As Rome conquered territories beyond the Italian peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

, many foreign names were introduced. Discharged auxiliary soldiers and others gaining Roman citizenship could, and many did, continue to use at least a portion of their former names. Most were of Greek
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

 or Etruscan
Etruscan civilization
Etruscan civilization is the modern English name given to a civilization of ancient Italy in the area corresponding roughly to Tuscany. The ancient Romans called its creators the Tusci or Etrusci...

 origin, while others came from regions that were brought under Roman influence. Non-citizen auxiliary soldiers who were granted citizenship often adopted the nomen of their Emperor, adding their native name as a cognomen
Cognomen
The cognomen nōmen "name") was the third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome, under Roman naming conventions. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary. Hereditary cognomina were used to augment the second name in order to identify a particular branch within...

.

New citizens often also took on the nomen of the reigning emperor. For instance, after Caracalla
Caracalla
Caracalla , was Roman emperor from 198 to 217. The eldest son of Septimius Severus, he ruled jointly with his younger brother Geta until he murdered the latter in 211...

 ("Marcus Aurelius Septimius Bassianus Antoninus") expanded citizenship to all free men in the empire, many of them took on the nomen Aurelius. (Caracalla's correct nomen was actually Septimius; "Aurelius" was a pretension to Roman nobility.)

Female names



Roman women usually had no praenomen and were known only by the feminine form of their father's nomen. If further description was needed, the name was followed by the genitive case
Genitive case
In grammar, genitive is the grammatical case that marks a noun as modifying another noun...

 of her father's cognomen or, after marriage, of her husband's. Hence, Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 speaks of a woman as "Annia P. Anni senatoris filia" (Annia the daughter of P. Annius the senator). By the late Republic, women also adopted the feminine form of their father's cognomen. Aquilia Severa
Aquilia Severa
Iulia Aquilia Severa was the second and fourth wife of Emperor Elagabalus. She was the daughter of Quintus Aquilius, twice consul under Caracalla. The praenomen of Julia was given to her after becoming an empress.Severa was a Vestal Virgin...

 was the daughter of Aquilius and married a Severus (in her case, both of her names are derived from nomina). Feminized cognomen was often made a diminutive
Diminutive
In language structure, a diminutive, or diminutive form , is a formation of a word used to convey a slight degree of the root meaning, smallness of the object or quality named, encapsulation, intimacy, or endearment...

, e.g. Augustus's third wife Livia Drusilla was the daughter of Marcus Livius Drusus.

If only two daughters survived, they could be distinguished as major and minor. Mark Antony
Mark Antony
Marcus Antonius , known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of his mother's cousin Julius Caesar...

's daughters were Antonia Major
Antonia Major
Antonia Major , also known as Antonia the Elder, was a daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia Minor and a relative of the first Roman Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 (paternal grandmother of the emperor Nero
Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

) and Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor
Antonia Minor , also known as Antonia the Younger or simply Antonia was the younger of two daughters of Roman politician Mark Antony and Octavia Minor. Tacitus Ann. 4.44.2 and 12.54.2 may have confused the two Antonia sisters...

 (mother of the emperor Claudius
Claudius
Claudius , was Roman Emperor from 41 to 54. A member of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he was the son of Drusus and Antonia Minor. He was born at Lugdunum in Gaul and was the first Roman Emperor to be born outside Italy...

, maternal great-grandmother of the emperor Nero). If a family had more than two daughters, they were distinguished by ordinal numbers: Cornelia Quinta, the fifth daughter of a Cornelius. The epithets of Major and Minor (or the Elder and the Younger) also served to distinguish between daughters and mothers of the same name, e.g., Agrippina the Younger
Agrippina the Younger
Julia Agrippina, most commonly referred to as Agrippina Minor or Agrippina the Younger, and after 50 known as Julia Augusta Agrippina was a Roman Empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 and Julia the Younger
Julia the Younger
Julia the Younger or Julilla , Vipsania Julia Agrippina, Iulilla, Julia, Augustus' granddaughter, or Julia Caesaris Minor, was a Roman noblewoman of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. She was the first daughter and second child of Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa and Julia the Elder...

, respective daughters of Agrippina the Elder
Agrippina the elder
Vipsania Agrippina or most commonly known as Agrippina Major or Agrippina the Elder was a distinguished and prominent granddaughter of the Emperor Augustus. Agrippina was the wife of the general, statesman Germanicus and a relative to the first Roman Emperors...

 and Julia the Elder
Julia the Elder
Julia the Elder , known to her contemporaries as Julia Caesaris filia or Julia Augusti filia was the daughter and only biological child of Augustus, the first emperor of the Roman Empire. Augustus subsequently adopted several male members of his close family as sons...

.

Additional elements and examples


The full form of a Roman name, used in official records, included the praenomen and nomen, followed by a "filiation", the name of the voting tribe in which the person was enrolled, and finally the cognomen and agnomen, if any. In some instances the place of a person's residence might also be added.

Filiation


The filiation was a traditional element of a Roman name, usually giving the praenomina of the person's father and grandfather. A typical example written in full would be Marcus Aemilius Quinti filius Marci nepos Lepidus, although this would normally be abbreviated to M. Aemilius Q. f. M. n. Lepidus. In this example, Quinti filius means "son of Quintus", and Marci nepos means "grandson of Marcus". Sometimes the filiation would be extended to pronepos (great-grandson) and abnepos (great-great-grandson). Filiation was also used for daughters, in which case filius and nepos would be replaced by filia (daughter) and neptis (granddaughter). The same abbreviations were used for both sons and daughters. For a list of praenomina and their abbreviations, see praenomen
Praenomen
The praenomen was a personal name chosen by the parents of a Roman child. It was first bestowed on the dies lustricus , the eighth day after the birth of a girl, or the ninth day after the birth of a boy...

.

Tribe


The tribus, or "tribe," was a geographically-determined voting assembly, not an ethnic designation, although certain social and ethnic groups sometimes were concentrated in particular tribes. All Roman citizens were enrolled in one of the voting tribes, whose number was fixed at thirty-five by the late Republic. The tribe in which a man was enrolled was generally determined by the location of his principal residence, but if he changed residence he did not also change tribes.

Precisely when it became common to include the name of a man's voting tribe as part of his full name is unknown. The name of the tribe normally follows a man's filiation and precedes his cognomina, suggesting that it was an early development. However, it is found with much less frequency than the other parts of the name, so the custom of including it does not seem to have been deeply ingrained in Roman practice. As with the filiation, it was common to abbreviate the name of the tribe. For the names of the thirty-five tribes during the late Republic, see list of Roman tribes.

Naming and birth order


The eldest son usually carries on his father's name. Younger sons are typically named for a grandfather or uncle. The proliferation of men carrying the same name can complicate prosopography
Prosopography
In historical studies, prosopography is an investigation of the common characteristics of a historical group, whose individual biographies may be largely untraceable, by means of a collective study of their lives, in multiple career-line analysis...

; for instance, in the early 1st century BC, three prominent men were named Lucius Valerius Flaccus: the consul of 100 BC, the suffect consul of 86 BC, and the latter's son, who was defended by Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 (Pro Flacco).

Analysis of a complete name


Analysis of an example complete name: Marcus Aurelius Lucii f. Quinti n. tribu Galeria Antoninus Felix, domo Caesaraugusta.
Component Name Note
Marcus praenomen
Aurelius nomen gentile he belonged to gens Aurelia (the Aurelii)
Lucii f(ilius) patronimicus son of Lucius
Quinti n(epos) grandparent grandson of Quintus
tribu Galeria tribe a tribe from Galleria, a region of Hispania
Hispania
Another theory holds that the name derives from Ezpanna, the Basque word for "border" or "edge", thus meaning the farthest area or place. Isidore of Sevilla considered Hispania derived from Hispalis....

Antoninus cognomen he belonged to Antonini branch of the clan
Felix agnomen "the Fortunate", a nickname
domo Caesaraugusta residence ancient Zaragoza
Zaragoza
Zaragoza , also called Saragossa in English, is the capital city of the Zaragoza Province and of the autonomous community of Aragon, Spain...

 in Hispania


A Roman man could be referred to in several ways: by his praenomen and nomen; by his nomen or cognomen standing alone; by his nomen and cognomen; or by his praenomen and cognomen. Which of these was used typically depended on how many other people might be referred to by the same name or combination of names. In the early Republic the nomen was often sufficient to distinguish people, but by imperial times a person's various cognomina were usually more distinctive. "Marcus Livius Drusus" would typically be referred to as "Marcus Livius" or simply as "Drusus", although both "Livius Drusus" and "Marcus Drusus" could also be used.

Although many women had praenomina, most women were known by their nomen alone. Multiple women with the same nomen were sometimes distinguished by nicknames or "inverted" praenomina (that is, praenomina that were treated as cognomina). Only in very large families was it common for women to be referred to by both a nomen and cognomen, although it was not uncommon for women to be called by a cognomen instead of a nomen.

Thus, the daughter of Lucius Julius Caesar was simply called "Julia". The daughters of Marcus Antonius were typically referred to as "Antonia Major" and "Antonia Minor". A daughter of Lucius Aemilius Paullus could be called "Tertia Aemilia", or "Aemilia Tertia" (with an inverted praenomen). Both nomen and cognomen were used by Caecilia Metella, the daughter of Lucius Caecilius Metellus.

The tendency to omit one or more parts of a person's name can create problems for modern scholars. Often several different people shared the same name, or names that differed in only one element. In many cases, we no longer have the context to know which person was actually meant.

Evolution of a personal name


In Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, a person's name was not static but often evolved with his status or social connections. Take for example the evolution of the name of the Emperor Augustus
Augustus
Augustus ;23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) is considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD.The dates of his rule are contemporary dates; Augustus lived under two calendars, the Roman Republican until 45 BC, and the Julian...

:

63 BC
63 BC
Year 63 BC was a year of the pre-Julian Roman calendar. At the time it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Cicero and Hibrida...

: Augustus is born as Gaius Octavius
  • C·OCTAVIVS·C·F·
  • Gaius Octavius Gaii filius
    • Gaius of the gens
      Gens
      In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

       Octavia, son of Gaius


44 BC
44 BC
Year 44 BC was either a common year starting on Sunday or Monday or a leap year starting on Friday or Saturday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday of the Proleptic Julian calendar...

: Julius Caesar dies. In his will he adopts Gaius Octavius. See Adoption in ancient Rome
Adoption in Ancient Rome
In ancient Rome, adoption of boys was a fairly common procedure, particularly in the upper senatorial class. The need for a male heir and the expense of raising children were strong incentives to have at least one son, but not too many children. Adoption, the obvious solution, also served to...

.
  • C·IVLIVS·C·F·CAESAR·OCTAVIANVS
  • Gaius Iulius Gaii filius Caesar Octavianus
    • Gaius Caesar of the gens
      Gens
      In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

       Julia, son of Gaius, originally of the gens
      Gens
      In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

       Octavia


42 BC
42 BC
Year 42 BC was either a common year starting on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday or a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday of the Proleptic Julian calendar...

: Julius Caesar is deified
Apotheosis
Apotheosis is the glorification of a subject to divine level. The term has meanings in theology, where it refers to a belief, and in art, where it refers to a genre.In theology, the term apotheosis refers to the idea that an individual has been raised to godlike stature...

, prompting a change in Gaius Octavianus' name.
  • C·IVLIVS·DIVI·F·CAESAR·OCTAVIANVS
  • Gaius Iulius Divi filius Caesar Octavianus
    • Gaius Caesar of the gens
      Gens
      In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

       Julia, son of the Deified, originally of the gens
      Gens
      In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

       Octavia


31 BC
31 BC
Year 31 BC was either a common year starting on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday or a leap year starting on Tuesday or Wednesday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday of the Proleptic Julian calendar...

: Gaius Octavianus is declared imperator
Imperator
The Latin word Imperator was originally a title roughly equivalent to commander under the Roman Republic. Later it became a part of the titulature of the Roman Emperors as part of their cognomen. The English word emperor derives from imperator via Old French Empreur...

 by the army
  • IMP·C·IVLIVS·DIVI·F·CAESAR·OCTAVIANVS
  • Imperator Gaius Iulius Divi filius Caesar Octavianus
    • Imperator Gaius Caesar of the gens
      Gens
      In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

       Julia, son of the Deified, originally of the gens
      Gens
      In ancient Rome, a gens , plural gentes, referred to a family, consisting of all those individuals who shared the same nomen and claimed descent from a common ancestor. A branch of a gens was called a stirps . The gens was an important social structure at Rome and throughout Italy during the...

       Octavia


27 BC
27 BC
Year 27 BC was either a common year starting on Sunday, Monday or Tuesday or a leap year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday of the Proleptic Julian calendar...

: The Roman Senate
Roman Senate
The Senate of the Roman Republic was a political institution in the ancient Roman Republic, however, it was not an elected body, but one whose members were appointed by the consuls, and later by the censors. After a magistrate served his term in office, it usually was followed with automatic...

grants the title Augustus. Gaius Octavianus assumes his official regnal name.
  • IMP·CAESAR·DIVI·F·AVGUSTVS
  • Imperator Caesar Divi filius Augustus
    • Imperator Caesar the August, son of the Deified