Cognomen

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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. It is the third part of the tria nomina, the three part Roman name.

Roman names


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

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

Contents

Characteristics of cognomina

Ancient republican cognomina had certain general characteristics. A person was not given his cognomen by his parents and did not choose it for himself: he either inherited it from his parents or was given it by general consensus within the community. In this sense a cognomen was like a nickname. For this reason, they were usually objective rather than subjective, concrete rather than abstract, and neutral or insulting rather than complimentary. Cognomina were usually adjectives describing physical or personality traits, occupation, place or ethnic of origin. Sometimes nouns could became cognomen by metonymy, for example, instead of calling a small man Paullus ("Little"), he could be given 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) can be found.

Inheritance

A Roman almost always took his father's cognomen, especially if his father himself inherited the name from his father. Cases in which a cognomen may not be passed down from father to son are those where the cognomen is particularly closely associated with the father and would not be relevant to the son.

Agnomina are not usually inherited. Adoptive cognomina and matronymic cognomina are never inherited.

Types of cognomina

Occupational cognomina

One type of cognomen referred to the person's job or occupation (e.g. Pictor, "painter"; Caprarius, "goat-herd").

Geographical cognomina

Some people had cognomina which referred to the place where they came from, whether a city (e.g. Collatinus, "man from Collatia"), a region (e.g. Campanus, "man from Campania"), or a tribe (e.g. Sabinus, "man of the Sabines").

These geographical cognomina should be distinguished from honorific cognomina like Germanicus or Britannicus.

Adoptive cognomina

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.

Matronymic cognomina

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".

Honrific cognomina

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. A person did not give himself an agnomen: it was always given by others. An agnomen may refer to a victory over a particular enemy people (e.g. Britannicus, "victor over the Britons") or in a particular place (e.g. Africanus, "victor in Africa"), a particular virtue (e.g. Pius, "dutiful"; Sapiens, "prudent"), or general preeminence (e.g. Magnus, "great"; Maximus, "very great").

Ancient republican cognomina

This is a list of some ancient republican cognomina with their meanings. Some cognomina were used especially by certain gentes: these are noted in the list, but they may also be used by members of other gentes.


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 {{{2}}}
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


References


    Personal Names in the Roman World

    0715636189.01.TZZZZZZZ.jpg
    Clive Cheesman. (November 30, 2008). Duckworth Publishers. ISBN 0715636189
    Paperback, 160 pages Contributed by Agricola
    Buy from Amazon: Canada UK USA

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