AskDefine | Define cognomen

Dictionary Definition



1 a familiar name for a person (often a shortened version of a person's given name); "Joe's mother would not use his nickname and always called him Joseph"; "Henry's nickname was Slim" [syn: nickname, moniker, sobriquet, soubriquet]
2 the name used to identify the members of a family (as distinguished from each member's given name) [syn: surname, family name, last name] [also: cognomina (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. surname
  2. the third part of the name of a citizen of ancient Rome
  3. a nickname or epithet by which someone is identified; a moniker or sobriquet




  1. surname
  2. third part of a formal name
  3. an additional name derived from some characteristic


Related terms


Extensive Definition

The cognomen (plural: cognomina) was originally the third name of an Ancient Roman in the Roman naming convention. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary (and thus more like a family name). Cognomen is derived from the prefix co- ("together with") and nomen ("name"). The term (with an Anglicized plural cognomens) has taken on a less specific meaning.

Historical usage

Because of the limited nature of the Latin praenomen, the cognomen developed to distinguish branches of the family from one another, and occasionally, to highlight an individual's achievement, typically in warfare. Scipio Africanus Major is one example, but some Romans – notably general Gaius Marius – had no cognomen at all. By the Late Roman Republic, however, the use of cognomina even in daily conversation had become typical. In the early Roman Empire we find the Annaean clan differentiating brothers solely by the cognomen: Lucius Annaeus Seneca Maior had three sons: L. Annaeus Novatus, L. Annaeus Seneca Minor and L. Annaeus Mela.
In contrast to the honorary cognomina adopted by successful generals, most cognomina were based on a physical or personality quirk; for example, Rufus meaning red-haired or Scaevola meaning left-handed.
The upper-class usually used the cognomen to refer to one another.
Today, we refer to many prominent ancient Romans by only their cognomen; for example, Cicero (meaning "chickpea") serves as a shorthand for Marcus Tullius Cicero and Caesar for Gaius Julius Caesar (see Etymology of the name of Julius Caesar).

General English-language usage

Cognomen (pluralized cognomens) has also been assimilated into English, and is used more generally (i.e. outside the context of Ancient Rome and Latin naming) as a catch-all term for monikers, stage names, pen names, aliases and other adopted (or commonly applied) nicknames or professional names.
cognomen in Czech: Cognomen
cognomen in German: Cognomen
cognomen in Japanese: コグノーメン
cognomen in Spanish: Cognomen
cognomen in French: Cognomen
cognomen in Dutch: Cognomen
cognomen in Portuguese: Cognome
cognomen in Slovak: Cognomen
cognomen in Turkish: Cognomen

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

affectionate name, agnomen, appellation, appellative, binomen, binomial name, byname, byword, cryptonym, denomination, designation, diminutive, empty title, epithet, eponym, euonym, family name, handle, honorific, hypocoristic, hyponym, label, last name, maiden name, married name, matronymic, moniker, name, namesake, nickname, nomen, nomen nudum, patronymic, pet name, praenomen, proper name, proper noun, scientific name, secret name, sobriquet, style, surname, tag, tautonym, title, trinomen, trinomial name
Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1