Choosing a Roman name
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.
The name you choose is the name you will be known by in Nova Roma. This will be your second identity and, if you are to stay a long time among us, it will be your alter ego. Your tria nomina (see below) will become a precious good for you and will be a part of Nova Roma's, therefore of Rome's, History. As Nova Roma claims to assume the continuation of Ancient Rome, be conscious that the Roman identity that you will choose will have a place in the wide family of Roman families, after a Camillus, a Cato, a Caesar or a Trajan. So choose it carefully and seriously.
These pages, and other articles on our website, contain information to help you. If, after reading this, you have any more questions, please contact the Censura.
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.
Read more about names in ancient Rome.
List of Standard Praenomina
These are the standard praenomina,
from most common to least common.
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.
Read more about praenomina in ancient Rome.
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 Censor. We strongly recommend that you choose one of the standard ones.
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.
Read more about nomina in ancient Rome.
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, the Censores 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.
Read more about cognomina in ancient Rome.
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.
We do 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 our community, like
- Agricola, Agrippa, Ahenobarbus, Aquila, Barbatus, Lupus, Marcellus, Saturninus, Severus, Triarius.
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 censors 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.
To help you choose a cognomen, there is a list of ancient Roman cognomina below. But this is not a complete list - the Romans often created new cognomina, and if you want to have one which is not on the list we will be happy to discuss this with you. A cognomen used in the ancient republic will normally be acceptable so long as it complies with the general characteristics noted above.
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 Censores will work with you to find an appropriate one.
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 Censores will discuss it with you.
Other Latin Words
Many ordinary Latin nouns and adjectives can be used as cognomina. 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 Censores will work with you to find an appropriate name.
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|
|Agrippa||Agrippa||OVERUSED||Born feet first||Gens Menenia|
|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|
|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|
|Balbus||Balba||SUGGESTED||Stutterer||Gentes Acilia, Cornelia, Lucilia, Naevia, Octavia|
|Barbatus||Barbata||OVERUSED||Bearded||Gentes Cornelia, Horatia, Quinctia|
|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|
|Brutus||Bruta||Stupid, dull-witted||Gens Iunia|
|Bulbus||Bulba||SUGGESTED||Bulb, onion||Gens Atilia|
|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|
|Camillus||Camilla||A child who helps during sacrifices||Gens Furia|
|Canus||Cana||Golden-haired or grey-haired|
|Cato||Cato||DISCOURAGED||Shrewd, prudent||Gentes Hostilia, Porcia|
|Catulus||Catula||Puppy, whelp||Gens Lutatia|
|Cicero||Cicero||DISCOURAGED||Chick pea||Gens Tullia|
|Cicurinus||Cicurina||Mild, gentle||Gens Veturia|
|Cilo||Cilo||SUGGESTED||Large forehead or large lips||Gens Flaminia|
|Cornutus||Cornuta||Horned||Gens Caecilia, Sulpicia|
|Cossus||Cossa||From archaic praenomen Cossus||Gens Cornelia|
|Costa||Costa||A rib||Gens Pedania|
|Crassus||Crassa||OVERUSED||Fat||Gentes Claudia, Licinia, Otacilia, Veturia|
|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|
|Dives||Dives||Rich, wealthy||Gens Licinia|
|Dorsuo||Dorsuo||SUGGESTED||Large back||Gens Fabia|
|Fimbria||Fimbria||Edge of clothing, fringes||Gens Flavia|
|Flaccus||Flacca||SUGGESTED||Floppy ears||Gentes Aviania, Fulvia, Valeria|
|Florus||Flora||Light-coloured or blooming||Gens Aquilia|
|Fullo||Fullo||SUGGESTED||A fuller or launderer||Gens Apustia|
|Fusus||Fusa||From archaic praenomen Fusus||Gens Furia|
|Gemellus||Gemella||A twin||Gentes Servilia, Veturia|
|Glabrio||Glabrio||A relative of Glaber||Gens Acilia|
|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|
|Laenas||Laenas||A woolly cloak||Gens Popillia|
|Lanatus||Lanata||Wearing wool||Gens Menenia|
|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|
|Macula||Macula||SUGGESTED||A spot or blemish|
|Mamercus||Mamerca||From rare praenomen Mamercus||Gens Aemilia|
|Marcellus||Marcella||OVERUSED||From praenomen Marcus||Gens Claudia|
|Merenda||Merenda||SUGGESTED||Light afternoon meal||Gentes Antonia, Cornelia|
|Metellus||Metella||OVERUSED||Army follower||Gens Caecilia|
|Mus||Mus||SUGGESTED||Mouse or rat||Gens Decia|
|Natta||Natta||SUGGESTED||An artisan||Gens Pinaria|
|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|
|Pacilus||Pacila||SUGGESTED||From archaic praenomen Pacilus||Gens Furia|
|Paetus||Paeta||SUGGESTED||Squinty or blinking||Gens Aelia|
|Papus||Papa||SUGGESTED||From rare praenomen Papus||Gens Aemilia|
|Paterculus||Patercula||SUGGESTED||Little father||Gens Sulpicia|
|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|
|Proculus||Procula||From rare praenomen Proculus, perhaps meaning "born during father's absence"||Gens Plautia|
|Publicola||Publicola||Variant of Poplicola||Gens Valeria|
|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|
|Rullus||Rulla||SUGGESTED||Uncultivated, boorish||Gens Servilia|
|Saturninus||Saturnina||Dedicated to Saturnus|
|Scaeva||Scaeva||Left-handed||Gens Iunia, Marcia|
|Scaurus||Scaura||Lame, swollen-ankled||Gentes Aemilia, Aurelia|
|Scipio||Scipio||DISCOURAGED||Rod, staff||Gens Cornelii|
|Silanus||Silana||Nose, water-spout||Gens Iunia|
|Stolo||Stolo||SUGGESTED||Shoot of a plant||Gens Licinia|
|Structus||Structa||Possibly derived from an archaic praenomen||Gens Servilia|
|Sura||Sura||SUGGESTED||Calf of the leg|
|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|
|Tullus||Tulla||From rare praenomen Tullus||Gens Volcatia|
|Varus||Vara||Bow-legged||Gentes Atilia, Licinia, Quinctilia|
|Vespillo||Vespillo||Person employed to bury people too poor for a funeral||Gens Lucretia|
|Vitulus||Vitula||Calf or young cow||Gentes Mamilia, Pomponia|
|Volusus||Volusa||From rare praenomen Volusus||Gens Valeria|
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 option is not recommended in Nova Roma for what was more possible with names belonging to linguistic systems living at the same period asks more difficulties with our Latin tria nomina and our modern names, as centuries have shaped them.
In addition, in the usual identity type that has been spread by Western civilization since the Middle Ages (first name + name), the last name comes in fact from what was, in the medieval times, what Romans would have call a cognomen.
So, for example, the latinization of a "Robert Grant" would not be that easy : first Robert is a German first name, and therefore neither a Roman one, or, a fortiori, a Roman name (nomen) ; second it is not enough adding "something which sounds Latin" at the end of a word, for example a -US or a -A, to find the solution. Transforming the "Robert Grant" in Robertus Grandis would be as surrealistic than adding a -V to Geronimo, and telling : "Fine ! I got a Russian name !".
So, here is how you may proceed. First check our list of praenomina : maybe you will find a praenomen close to yours. But have no illusion, except if you are a Mark (Marcus) or a Louis(Lucius). Choose your praenomen. Then check our lists of nomen and cognomen, and try to find a form, a sound, or a meaning, if you have yet some knowledge of Latin, which would be close to your current name. If keeping, if possible, your name or something close to it, is that important for you, do not focus on the nomen necessarily : as we explain above, the cognomen is the ancester of the family name, for those of us whose ancesters are Europeans. Last, choose in our lists the remaining element (cognomen or nomen), shake ;-) and see if you are satisfied. If you are not, choose another form.
If you face difficulties, you may ask the Censores, and specially in your application form. They will try to help, but in the limits of their good will. If you are decided to keep your current national identity at any stake, the solution is simple : do not apply for Roman citizenship.