Roman first name

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The given name ( Latin praenomen ) used in ancient Rome was the first member of the tria nomina of male Roman citizens .

Male first names

In classical times there were only 18 praenomina . In inscriptions and in literature, they usually appear in conventional abbreviations:

Quintus, Sextus and Decimus are actually numerals (the fifth, sixth, tenth). For further etymology compare the individual articles.

The most common given names were Marcus, Lucius and Gaius . That was the name of more than half of the male Roman citizens; together with Publius and Quintus more than three quarters. The other names were rare.

Individual Roman families limited themselves to some of these names over several generations. During the time of the republic , for example, the Julians family, apart from Gaius (cf. Gaius Julius Caesar ), only used the first names Lucius and Sextus .

In addition to the 18 given names above, there are about as many other ancient Roman first names, but all of them were rare. Varro lists the following names: Agrippa , Ancus, Caesar, Faustus, Hostus, Lar, Opiter, Postumus, Proculus, Sertor, Statius, Tullus, Volero, and Vopiscus. This list can be extended by the names Aruns, Denter, Numa, Vibius (V. or Vi.) And Volusus according to other sources. The first names Novius, Occius, Paquius, Salvius, Statius, Trebius and Vibius occur in non-noble plebeians.

During the imperial era, old Roman first names were revived and new ones were added: Agrippa, Cossus, Drusus, Faustus, Germanicus, Nero, Paullus.

Female name

Women, like men, had individual names. This was originally placed before the gentile name , just like with men , examples are the names Acca Larentia , Gaia Caecilia, Gaia Tarratia, Quinta Claudia or Quarta Hostilia. This tradition lasted until the time of Marcus Tullius Cicero . Often, however, women were only mentioned under their gentile name, for example the daughter of Cicero as Tullia and the sisters and daughter of Gaius Iulius Caesar as Iulia.

In the imperial era, the individual name of women was treated as a cognomen and placed after the gentile name. Most women's names were female forms of the corresponding male first names, but the frequency of the most popular female names differed from those of the male names, for example Paulla / Pola is common, although Paullus is very rare, and names like Prima, Secunda and Quarta are quite common.

The female first names were usually not abbreviated. The abbreviation Ɔ comes from the name Gaia. (reverse C), but only in the formula Ɔ. lib . ("Freedman of a Woman").


  • Mika Kajava: Roman Female Praenomina: Studies in the Nomenclature of Roman Women . 1994, ISBN 951-96902-1-2 .
  • Olli Salomies: The Roman first names. Studies on Roman naming . Helsinki 1987 (Societas Scientiarum Fennica, Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum. 82).

Individual evidence

  1. T. Mommsen, K. Bielefeld (edit.) Small number of Roman patrician first names
  2. T. Mommsen, K. Bielefeld (arr.) First names of the plebeians
  3. T. Mommsen, K. Bielefeld (edit.) The Roman system of first names in the last republican epoch
  4. ^ Theodor Mommsen: The Roman proper names of the republican and Augustan times . In: ders .: Roman research . Volume 1, Weidmann, Berlin 1864, pp. 32-33 ( online ).