Cognomen

Cognomen

käɡˈnōmən

Noun

  • A name or nickname.
  • A third personal name given to an ancient Roman citizen, typically passed down from father to son, for example Marcus Tullius “Cicero.”

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Example Sentences

“My grandfather requested his old Army cognomen of Frank the Fast be included in his memorial.”

“For my ancient Roman history test, I had to memorize the cognomen for all the emperors.”

“Many monarchs shared the same name, so a cognomen or nickname helps to distinguish them.”

Word Origin

Latin, early 19th century

Why this word?

In ancient Rome, a cognomen was the third personal name of a Roman citizen, as in the “Caesar” of Gaius Julius Caesar. The cognomen was typically passed along the hereditary line, while the praenomen (Gaius) was the first name, and the nomen (Julius) identified the “gens,” or the common ancestor shared by a larger group. The word “cognomen” can be used today as a synonym for “name,” but it has another historical usage in the nicknames of monarchs. For example, when referring to Peter the Great, “the Great” is his cognomen. What do you think your cognomen should be?

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