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Humanista (humanist) is a Latin term that originated in Italy during the Renaissance . It was only introduced towards the end of the 15th century, when what would later become known as Renaissance humanism was already in full bloom. The oldest evidence of humanista dates back to 1490. Originally, humanista was a job title for those professors at the universities that were dedicated to the studia humanitatis, i.e. teaching Latin and ancient Greek grammar and rhetoric and ancient literature, especially the works of ancient poets , Philosopher and historian.

Although humanism arose outside of the universities, the term humanist is therefore of purely university origin. It was formed in analogy to terms like legista (holder of a legal chair) and canonista (teacher of canon law ) and was initially only used colloquially in student jargon . It wasn't until the early 16th century that humanista was used as an official title for a university professor. At that time it also became common to refer to non-university educated people who were engaged in literary studies as humanists. However, many humanists advocated a strict classicism, that is, they were of the conviction that one should not use Latin expressions that do not occur in the ancient classics. Some believed that in Latin one should limit oneself to Cicero's vocabulary (radical Ciceronianism ). For the numerous classical-thinking humanists, a newly formed word ( neologism ) like humanista was out of the question as a self-designation. Since the formation of new words with the suffix -ista ran counter to their sense of language, they preferred to call themselves “poets” ( poetae ) or “speakers” ( oratores ).


  • Giuseppe Billanovich : Auctorista, Humanista, Orator , in: Rivista di Cultura Classica e Medioevale , Vol. 7, 1965, pp. 143-163
  • Augusto Campana: The Origin of the Word "Humanist" , in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes , Vol. 9, 1946, pp. 60-73
  • Paul F. Grendler: The Concept of Humanist in Cinquecento Italy , in: Anthony Molho and John A. Tedeschi (Eds.): Renaissance Studies in Honor of Hans Baron , Firenze 1971, pp. 445–463
  • Paul Oskar Kristeller : Humanism and Renaissance I: The ancient and medieval sources , Fink, Munich 1974 [especially p. 16ff.]
  • Walter Rüegg: Article Humanism. A. General and Italy , in: Lexikon des Mittelalters , Volume 5, Munich 1991, Sp. 186–193