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108. A Roman had regularly three names (1) the praenōmen, or personal name; (2) the nōmen, or name of the gēns or house; (3) the cōgnōmen, or family name:

Thus in Mārcus Tullius Cicerō we have—

  1. Mārcus, the praenōmen, like our Christian or given name.
  2. Tullius, the nōmen, properly an adjective denoting of the Tullian gēns (or house ) whose original head was a real or supposed Tullus.
  3. Cicerō, the cōgnōmen, or family name, often in origin a nickname, in this case from cicer, a vetch, or small pea.

Note— When two persons of the same family are mentioned together, the cōgnōmen is usually put in the plural: Pūblius et Servius Sullae.

a. A fourth or fifth name was sometimes given as a mark of honor or distinction, or to show adoption from another gēns.

Thus the complete name of Scipio the Younger was Pūblius Cornēlius Scīpiō Āfricānus Aemiliānus: Āfricānus, from his exploits in Africa; Aemiliānus, as adopted from the Æmilian gēns.1

Note— The Romans of the classical period had no separate name for these additions, but later grammarians invented the word āgnōmen to express them.

b. Women had commonly in classical times no personal names, but were known only by the nōmen of their gēns.

Thus, the wife of Cicero was Terentia, and his daughter Tullia. A second daughter would have been called Tullia secunda or minor, a third daughter, Tullia tertia, and so on.

c. The commonest prænomens are thus abbreviated:

A.Aulus L.Lūcius Q.Quīntus
App. (Ap.)— Appius M.Mārcus Ser.Servius
C. (G.)— Gāius (Caius)
[cf. § 1.a]
M'.Mānius Sex. (S.)— Sextus
Cn. (Gn.)— Gnaeus (Cneius) Mām.Māmercus Sp.Spurius
D.Decimus N. (Num.)— Numerius T.Titus
K.Kaesō (Caeso) P.Pūblius Ti. (Tib.)— Tiberius

Note— In the abbreviations C. and Cn., the initial character has the value of G (§ 1.a).



1.In stating officially the full name of a Roman it was customary to include the praenōmina of the father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, together with the name of the tribe to which the individual belonged. Thus in an inscription we find M. TVLLIVS M. F. M. N. M. PR. COR. CICERO, i.e. Mārcus Tullius Mārcī fīlius Mārcī nepōs Mārcī pronepōs Cornēliā tribū Cicerō. The names of grandfather and great-grandfather as well as that of the tribe are usually omitted in literature. The name of a wife or daughter is usually accompanied by that of the husband or father in the Genitive: Postumia Servī Sulpiciī (Suet. Iul. 50)  Postumia, wife of Servius Sulpicius; Caecilia Metellī (Div. 1.104)  Caecilia, daughter of Metellus.
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Suggested Citation

Meagan Ayer, Allen and Greenough’s New Latin Grammar for Schools and Colleges. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2014. ISBN: 978-1-947822-04-7.