Roman Last Names – My 50 Favorites

Last names are an essential part of the culture – they define who you are and where you come from. Last names also have various uses, depending on the area in which they are used. For example, in Germany, last names can indicate your occupation or whom you are married to. 

Last names are passed down from one generation to the next in other parts of the world, including the United States. Roman last names are exciting because they were initially given to the Patricians (the upper class) during Ancient Rome.

The names were used by people who shared the same family name or nomen, similar to today’s middle name. To differentiate individuals with the same nomen, men in one gens (clan) would take on another cognomen, such as an additional family name.

Though many of these original last names have fallen out of use, several interesting surnames were passed down through the years and make part of our modern culture.

Top 50 Favorite Roman Last Names

50. Murena – Murena was a cognomen used by at least two prominent Romans, Lucius Licinius Murena and Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi.

49. Porcius – The name Porcius was given to individuals who guarded or watched over something. This name is derived from the Latin word puer, which means boy or slave.

48. Vitellius – Vitellius was a cognomen given to particularly greedy individuals when it came to food.

47. Crassus – Crassus was given to individuals considered stout, thick, or short in stature.

46. Tullus – Tullus is a cognomen that means an individual from the city of Toulouse in the south of France. This name is also associated with being tough or strong because it can be translated as leader or chief.

45. Camillus – Camillus was an important Roman general who helped take care of Gaul and fight the Samnites.

44. Pomponius – Pomponius means someone who enjoys luxury or extravagance, which fits someone hailing from ancient Rome.

43. Scipio (also Scipio Africanus) – This is a very popular cognomen because there were two famous men named Scipio in Ancient Rome. The first was Publius Cornelius Scipio, who helped the Romans fight Hannibal and his elephants during the Second Punic War. The second man bearing this name was Scipio Africanus, the Roman general who defeated Hannibal during the Second Punic War.

42. Glabrio – Glabrio is the last name that means someone who had hair on only one side of their head, usually resulting in baldness on the other side of their head. The reason for this strange trait was because it was considered to be an attractive feature.

41. Calvus – Calvus was a cognomen given to bald or had a skinny head of hair. The term “bald” comes from, as it is derived from this Roman name.

40. Fabius – The cognomen Fabius means someone who was a bean grower. This name is of Etruscan origin, and it had a variety of spellings.

39. Nero – The cognomen Nero means someone born during the winter, usually through a difficult pregnancy or labor, which would be called “nativity.”

38. Julius Caesar – For those that may not know, Julius Caesar is the name of one of the most famous Roman generals/emperors who ever lived. It was also a very popular cognomen during Ancient Rome because there were many people with this name.

37. Antonius – Antony is a lot like Julius in that it was considered to be very common for Ancient Romans. Especially since so many of the Antonian family also bore this name.

37. Cicero – Cicero is a cognomen that means someone born in a chickpea field or had an ugly and irregularly-shaped head. This name comes from the Latin word cicer, which means chickpea.

36. Cassius – For some reason, the cognomen Cassius has always struck me as an incredibly clever and unusual name. It is often said that this name was given to individuals who had massive cheeks or lips.

35. Brutus – Brutus’s last name means someone born with a big head on their shoulders or a huge nose.

34. Caecilius – The name Caecilius is derived from the Latin word caecus, which means blind.

33. Lentulus – Lentulus was a popular name among ancient Romans because it meant someone as slow as a snail or as thin as a lentil seed. It is also the name of one of Caesar’s officers, ” Lentulus Spinther .”

32. Silanus – The cognomen Silanus means someone born with soft or mushy facial features, which may have been something that people admired during Ancient Rome times.

31. Marcellus – The cognomen Marcellus originates from Mars, the Roman God of war.

30. Cornelius – If you’ve ever seen the TV show “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” then you may recognize this name because it is a cognomen that means someone who was born from a long line of ancestors with the same last name.

29. Pompey – The cognomen Pompey means someone with a large and round forehead or a hideous baby.

28. Gellius – The cognomen Gellius means someone as beautiful as the nymph Aegle, one of Apollo’s lovers in Greek mythology.

27. Scaurus – The name Scaurus means someone with big feet or a horse’s hoof. It is also the name of one of Rome’s most well-known senators, Marcus Aemilius Scaurus.

26. Corvinus – Julius Caesar used to call his friend Marcus Valerius Corvinus by this name because it meant someone as swift as a deer, which he compared to how fast Corvinus was at running.

25. Helvius – The cognomen Helvius means someone who had red hair or very tanned skin.

24. Aquila – The cognomen Aquila means someone born with a thin and elongated face, appearing like an eagle.

23. Pollux – The name Pollux comes from the Greek word polustros, which means something very round or puffed up (of the cheeks). It is also one of the Gemini Twins from Greek mythology.

22. Cato – The cognomen Cato was given to wrinkled individuals, old and faded or skinny with a hunched back. This name has been associated with many famous Romans throughout history, including Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis.

21. Caligula – The cognomen Caligula means someone born wearing tiny shoes or was a speedy runner.

20. Piso – The cognomen Piso means someone with large, flat feet or feet resembling pine cones.

19. Taurus – This name is quite popular, and many people will recognize it because it means someone born in April or who had huge eyebrows.

18. Licinius – The cognomen Licinius means someone hairy or had a beard that looked like it belonged to a goat.

17. Aemilius – This name is widespread in Ancient Rome because it means someone who was the son of a freed slave.

16. Cassius – The cognomen Cassius means someone who had disproportionately large feet or was very slow at walking.

15. Paulus – The cognomen Paulus means someone who has dark hair or eyes.

14. Aelius – This name is often compared to the name of one of Zeus’ sons, Aelius because it came from ae-, which meant something a bit loose and ae-lios, which meant someone as bright as the sun.

13. Severus – The name Severus means someone who has skinny legs.

12. Pompeius – This cognomen is derived from the word Pompe, which meant something swollen or oversized, which would have been an effective way to describe someone’s nose or lips.

11. Tiberius – The name of this emperor comes both from the Latin word for bull ( Taurus ) and the mythical founder of Rome, Tiberinus.

10. Flaccus – This name has to do with Flaccus, which means floppy, flabby, or drooping.

9. Lentulus – The cognomen Lentulus means someone who has a thin neck or long arms.

8. Valens – This cognomen is derived from valens, which means someone solid or powerful.

7. Germanicus – This name describes a person from Germany or someone as fierce as a German.

6. Severus – The cognomen Severus meant someone who had dark hair or dark eyes. It is also the name of one of the four emperors that have been part of the Severan Dynasty.

5. Decimus – The cognomen Decimus can be translated to mean someone who was the tenth child in their family or the opposite of primus, which meant first in line.

4. Antonius – This name is associated with the famous general, Mark Antony, because it means someone who fought or was brave.

3. Salvius – The cognomen Salvius means a freed slave or a man as good as free from slavery.

2. Orca – The name Orca was given to someone who had a largemouth or whose nose looked like it came from a whale.

1. Maximinus – The name Maximinus is associated with the Latin word maximus, which means the most significant or most powerful.

Conclusion

In Ancient Rome, a Roman citizen usually had three names: a praenomen (given name), a nomen (clan name), and a cognomen (family line). Although the Roman last name was often used as a family designation, it was sometimes more described.

So if you were wondering what the heck some of those previous names meant, then hopefully, I’ve filled in the blanks for you and made your life just a little bit easier.

 

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