Posts Tagged ‘Romulus’


Today it’s R’s turn in the exploration of little used English surnames of Old English, Norse and Anglo-French origin. It’s a letter rich in promising, contemporary choices!

  • Radcliff — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + clif “cliff.”
  • Raddon — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + dūn “hill,” or denu “valley.”
  • Radford — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + ford “ford.”
  • Radley — from one of the places of the name. Old English rēad “red” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.” Also Radleigh.
  • Raglan, Ragland — from Ragland, Wiltshire. Middle English ragge “stony” + land “land.”
  • Ragley — from Ragley Hall, Warwickshire. Middle English ragge “stony” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Raimes — from Rames, France. Probably Old French rames “sticks,” “posts”; probably referring to a palisade.
  • Ramsden — from one of the places of the name. Old English ramsa “ramsons” + denu “valley.”
  • Rawley — a form of Raleigh, from Raleigh in Devon, or Rayleigh, Essex. Old English rǣge “roe-deer” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rawnsley — from a lost village in Yorkshire. Old English hræfn “raven” (probably used here as a personal name) + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rayden, Raydon — Rayden appeared for the first time ever in 2010, in 928th place, but that still counts as rare enough for a mention here. From Raydon, Suffolk. Old English ryge “rye” + dūn “hill.”
  • Rayer — from the Old German personal name Radhari “counsel-army”; medieval forms included Rathar and Rather.
  • Rayner, Reyner — from the Old German personal name Reginhari “counsel-army” (yes, again!). Introduced by the Normans in the Norman-French form Rainer.
  • Redd — a form of Read, from Old English rēad “counsel,” the source also of Reed, Red and Reid.
  • Reaney — often pronounced “rainy” in its home-town of Sheffield. From Ranah Stones, Yorkshire. Old Norse hrafn “raven” + haugr “hill.”
  • Redvers — from Reviers, Calvados. Old French: riviere “river.”
  • Redwin — from the Old English personal name Rædwine “counsel-friend.”
  • Remfrey — from the Old German personal name Raganfrid “might-peace.” Introduced by the Normans in the Norman-French form Rainfrid.
  • Renham — from the Rainham in Kent or Essex. Old English Roegingas (a tribal name) + hām “homestead,” “village,” “estate,” “manor.”
  • Renner — from Old English rennan “to run.”
  • Renter — Middle English renter “one who owns and lets land.”
  • Renton — from one of the places called Rainton. Old English personal name Rægen “might” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Revis — from Rievaulx, Yorkshire. River name Rye + Old French val(s) “valley.”
  • Rew — Middle English rew “row (of houses).”
  • Richmay — from the Old English female name Ricmæge “rule-maiden.” Occurs as Richemaya in medieval documents.
  • Rickerby — from Rickerby, Cumbria. Old Norse personal name Rikard (the Old Norse form of Richard) + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Ridley, Redley — from one of the places called Ridley. Old English rēad “red” or hrēod “reed” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rimer, Rymer — Anglo-French rimour “rimer,” “poet.”
  • Risby — from one of the places called Risby. Old Norse hrís “brushwood” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Risden, Risdon — Old English hrís “brushwood” + denu “valley” or dūn “hill.”
  • Risley — from one of the places of the name. Old English hrīs + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rixon — Middle English atte rixen “among the rushes.”
  • Roaf, Rowe — A form of Rolf, and thus Rudolph.
  • Robey, Roby — partly from Robbie, partly from the places called Robey and Roby. Old Norse “boundary” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.” Roby appeared a few times in the eight and nine hundreds in the late nineteenth century, but not enough to write home about.
  • Rocker — Middle English: rok, rocke “distaff,” used of someone who made them, or perhaps a spinner. Also Rokker.
  • Rockley — from Rockley, Wiltshire. Old English hrōc “rook” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rodley — Old English: hrēod “reed”+ lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Roke — Middle English: atter oke  “(dweller) at the oak.”
  • Rokeby — from one of the places of the name. Old Norse hrókr “rook” + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Romer — Middle English: romere “one who has made a pilgrimage to Rome.”
  • Romilly — in the top 1000 in the UK, but not in the US. From Remilly or Romilly in France, or Romiley, Cheshire. The French derive from the Latin Romulus, the English is Old English rūm “spacious” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Romney — from Romney, Kent. The town takes its name from a river. Possibly Old English rūmen “broad” + ēa “river.”
  • Roper — Middle English ropere “a rope-maker.”
  • Rothwell — from one of the places of the name. Old English +roth “clearing” + wella “spring,” “stream.”
  • Routh — from Routh, Yorkshire. Old Norse: hrúthr “rough ground.”
  • Rowat, Rowet, Rowett — from the Old Norse name Hróaldr “fame-ruler,” or from Roet, a medieval pet-form Rolf, or from Old English *rūwet “rough ground.”
  • Rowden, Rowdon — from one of the places of the name. Old English hrēod “reed” + denu “valley” or dūn “hill.”
  • Rowell — from ROTHWELL, or Old English rūh “rough” + hyll “hill.”
  • Rower, Royer — Old French: roier “wheel-wright.”
  • Rowley — from one of the places of the name. Old English: rūh “rough” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rowney — Old English: rūh “rough” + (ge)hæg “enclosure.”
  • Rowton — Old English: rūh “rough”  + + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”
  • Roxby — From Roxby, Lincolnshire. Old Norse personal name Hrókr (meaning “rook”) + “farmstead,” “village” and “settlement.”
  • Royden, Roydon — from one of the places of the name. Old English: ryge “rye” + dūn “hill.”
  • Rudd — Old English: *rud- “ruddy.”
  • Rugeley — from Rugeley, Staffordshire. Old English: hrycg “ridge” + lēah “wood,” “woodland clearing,” “glade,” “pasture,” and “meadow.”
  • Rusher — Old English rysc used of someone who cut or sold rushes.
  • Ryton — from one of the places of the name. Old English ryge “rye” + tūn “enclosure,” “farmstead,” “estate,” “manor,” “village.”

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Terentius Neo and his wife

Today marks the anniversary of the start of the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE which destroyed the Roman town of Pompeii.

It was, coincidentally, the day after the Vulcanalia — the Roman festival dedicated to the fire and smith God Vulcan.

The 24th itself was a festival in honor of both Luna — Goddess of the Moon — and Mania, Goddess of Death.

We know the names of many of the people who lived in Pompeii — and nearby Herculaneum, which was also devastated.

In memory of all those who died, below are some of the names of Roman men and women whose names were preserved in the ruins of Pompeii.

Their fates are unknown.

  • Acilius CedrusCedrus is the Latin for ‘cedar’; it is actually a feminine noun, but was clearly used here as a surname.
  • Aemilius CrescensAemilius is the source of the French Emile and English Emilia and Emily — among others. Crescens ‘growing’ and ‘thriving’ was a common surname, and there are other examples known from Pompeii. The standard feminine is Crescentina.
  • Arrius StephanusStephanus is the Greek for ‘garland’ and ‘crown’. The source of English Stephen, it was a common Greek name. Arrius Stephanus was probably a Greek slave freed by a member of the Arrius family.
  • Betutius Placidus, LuciusPlacidus — Latin for ‘gentle’, ‘calm’ and ‘mild’.
  • Biria
  • Caecilius Capella, LuciusCapella means ‘little goat’, and is another feminine noun used as a male surname! Best known today as the name of a star in Auriga.
  • Caecilius Iucundus, Lucius — famous to anyone who ever learned Latin with the Cambridge Latin Course (or has seen The Fires of Pompeii — an episode of Doctor Who). Caecilius is the origin of Cecil, Cecilia, Cecily and Cicely.
  • Caetronius Eutychus, GnaeusEutychus is another Greek name, and this fellow was probably another freed slave. From the Greek eutukhês ‘fortunate’ and ‘prosperous’. A character of the name turns up in the New Testament.
  • Calavia OptataOptata means ‘wished for’, ‘longed for’ and ‘welcome’, and more than one example is known from Pompeii
  • Caprasia
  • Caprasius FelixFelix ‘fortunate’ was a very common Roman surname.
  • Casellius Marcellus, MarcusMarcellus means simply ‘little Marcus’. It was another common surname, most famously borne by the very aristocratic Marcus Claudius Marcellus, the first husband of Augustus’ daughter Julia.
  • Cassia
  • Chlorus — a surname from the Greek khlôros ‘greenish-yellow’.
  • Cornelius Amandus, Lucius
  • Cosmus — another surname, this time from Greek kosmos ‘order’; source of the name Cosmo.
  • Junius Proculus, DeciusDecius is probably a ‘modern’ mistake for Decimus (as Shakespeare made in Julius Caesar), but the original source is lost. Proculus was another well-used surname, a diminutive form of procus ‘wooer’ and ‘suitor’.
  • Demetrius — a Greek name meaning ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Demeter. Source of Dmitri and (ultimately) Demi.
  • Dentatius Panthera, TitusPanthera is the Latin for ‘panther’.
  • Epaphra — short form of Greek Epaphrodita from epaphroditos ‘lovely’ and ‘charming’.
  • Epidia
  • Epidius FortunatusFortunatus means ‘prosperous’, ‘happy’, ‘lucky’. Another popular surname.
  • Equitia
  • Erastus — Greek ‘beloved’ and ‘lovely’.
  • Euplia — possibly from the Greek euploia ‘fair voyage’
  • Fabia — the Fabii were a very important family, though most bearers descended from former slaves and other dependents.
  • Fabius Celer, MarcusCeler was another popular Roman surname meaning ‘swift’.
  • Fabius Memor, MarcusMemor means ‘mindful’ and ‘remembering’
  • Faventinus — from favens ‘favoring’ and ‘befriending’.
  • Fortunata
  • Fufidius Successus, NumeriusNumerius is one of the rarer Roman first names.
  • Gavius RufusRufus ‘red’ and ‘ruddy’ was one of the commonest Roman surnames.
  • Grata Metallica — yes, Metallica (I wonder if the Swedish family who fought to call their daughter Metallica knew it was used as a given name in Roman times?). From metallicus ‘of metal’ and ‘metallic’; ‘mine-worker’.
  • Helpis Afra — Greek elpis ‘hope’; Afer ‘African’.
  • Hirtia Psacas — Greek psakas ‘drop of rain’, grain’ and ‘morsel’.
  • Julius Nicephorus, GaiusNicephorus is Greek, meaning ‘bearing victory’
  • Livius Firmus, LuciusFirmus was another common surname, meaning ‘strong’, ‘steadfast’ and ‘powerful’
  • Loreius Tiburtinus
  • Lucretius Fronto, Marcus
  • Lusoria
  • Mestrius Maximus, QuintusMaximus needs little intro — Latin ‘greatest’. Not uncommon.
  • Numicia PrimigeniaPrimigenia means ‘primal’; it was an epithet of the Goddess Fortuna.
  • Numisius Rarus, LuciusRarus ‘thin’ and ‘rare’.
  • Nymphius — a family name of Greek origin, from numphê ‘nymph’ and ‘bride’.
  • Octavius RomulusRomulus was one of the legendary founders of Rome.
  • Oppia
  • Oppius GratusGratus, another surname, meaning ‘beloved’, ‘dear’ and ‘agreeable’.
  • Paccia
  • Paccius Clarus, PubliusClarus ‘clear’, ‘bright’ and ‘shining’. Source of Clara and Clare.
  • Pinarius CerealisCerealis ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Ceres’.
  • Plotilla
  • Pomaria
  • Popidius Metallicus
  • Poppaeus SabinusSabinus ‘Sabine’, source of Sabin and Sabina. The emperor Nero’s second wife was called Poppaea Sabina, and had property near Pompeii
  • Primilla — feminine diminutive of primus ‘first’.
  • Pupius, Marcus
  • Salvius — another family name familiar to anyone who has done the Cambridge Latin Course. From salvus ‘safe’ and ‘sound’.
  • Sextilius VerusVerus, another popular Roman surname — ‘true’, ‘real’, ‘genuine’.
  • Sibilla Pompeiana
  • Spurius Saturninus, MarcusSaturninus, Roman surname meaning ‘belonging to (the God) Saturn’
  • Suettius ElainusElainus is a surname of Greek origin, from elainos ‘of olive-wood’
  • Sutoria Primigenia
  • Terentius Neo, TitusNeo — from the Greek neos ‘new’… so Neo is not so ‘new’ as a name as some folk may think!
  • Tettius Faustus, GaiusFaustus, another common surname meaning ‘of favorable omen’, ‘auspicious’. The origin, obviously, of Faust.
  • Trebius Valens, AulusValens, yet another of the most common surnames, valens means ‘strong’, ‘healthy’ and ‘powerful’ and is the source of Valentine and Valentina.
  • Vedius VestalisVestalis, a surname meaning ‘belonging to (the Goddess) Vesta’.

All names included here have been ordered their family (gens) name (where known). Not all first names (praenomina) or surnames (cognomina) are known.

In the Roman system of naming, male citizens usually had three names: a first name (praenomen) — of which there were only a few in common use — the name of their gens ‘family’ or ‘clan’ (nomen), and their surname (cognomen).

Women were mostly known by the feminine form of their family/clan name, or the feminine form of a surname. But sometimes they bore both, or two family names, or two surnames.

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Tonight sees the première of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II. As I write, the stars are arriving in Leicester Square, London, and greeting the thousands of excited fans, who have been gathering all day (well, in truth, all week) in the hope of catching a glimpse of the faces we have come to know so well, the physical manifestations of J. K. Rowling’s magical characters.

And what better way to mark the occasion than to take a closer look at some of the Harry Potter names?

It would be impossible to start with anything other than Harry — the boy wizard who takes on the most terrible wizard of all time, Lord Voldemort — and wins. Harry is the Traditional English vernacular form of Henry, which has been in use as an independent name since the Middle Ages. Harris and Harrison are two surnames which derive from it, both now used as first names. J. K. Rowling’s Harry is not the only fictional Harry Potter caught up in magic;  The hero of the film Troll (1986) was also called Harry Potter.

As for Henry, its roots lie in Dark Age Germany. It is a combination of the Old German haimi ‘home’ and ricja ‘ruler’ and its earliest known form was Haimirich. This was Latinized as Henricus, from which the French Henri and Anglo-French Henry later evolved. Harry is very popular in the UK, in 3rd place in 2009. Given the popularity of the books and films in the US, it is surprising that it is in 658th place over there — and falling.

Hermione, on the other hand, has never made the top 1000 names in the US, though it has been used in the English-speaking world since at least the 18th Century. In the UK in 2009, it was place 370th — and climbing. While Harry is a firmly Germanic name, Hermione’s is Classical. In Greek mythology, Hermione was the daughter of Menelaus, King of Sparta and the infamous beauty, Helen of Troy. Her life, in contrast to her parents, was considerably less eventful. She married her cousin Orestes (after he murdered his mother as punishment for her murdering his father, and had a spell being chased around Greece by the Furies) and not much else is know about her. Her name, however, has rich meaning. It is formed from the name of the Greek God Hermes (the Roman Mercury). Most people know he is the messenger of the Gods, but his role goes far deeper than that. He conveys the souls of the dead to the underworld — a role arising from the fact he is also a God of boundaries, making him a male counterpart of Hecate. And the similarities don’t end there. There are distinct hints of magic about him, from his ‘magic wand’ – the caduceus – to his associations with the night. He was seen in ancient times as a protector of those on the fringe of society, both those who were only temporarily in that position (namely travelers) to those who resided there permanently, i.e. thieves, prostitutes – and Witches.  A very apt name, then, for a witch.

Ronald takes us to the Celtic fringe and medieval Scandinavia. It derives ultimately from the Old Norse Rögnvaldrregin ‘might’ and ‘counsel’ + valdr ‘ruler’. It has been used continually in Scotland since medieval times, and in the 19th Century, it became popular elsewhere in the English-speaking world. The pet-form Ronnie was popular as a name in its own right in the first half of the 20th Century — and then, of course, there’s Ron. Among the many real-life bearers is the Historian Ronald Hutton, well-known for his books on Paganism and Witchcraft. Ronald was in joint 848th place in the UK in 2009, along with such varied names as Abel, Armani, Cairo, Dewi, Hunter, Hussein and Stanislaw, though Ronnie was up in the 131st spot. In the US, Ronald was 342nd in 2010.

Albus is Latin and means ‘white’ — specifically ‘dead white’. It was regarded as a symbol of good fortune. Although now it will be forever associated with Albus Dumbledore, it has actually been in use since at least the 19th Century.

Severus is also Latin, unsurprisingly meaning  ‘serious’, ‘sober’, ‘strict’ ‘stern’ and ‘austere’. It has actually been used as a genuine name since ancient times; three Roman Emperors alone bore the name: Lucius Septimius Severus (145-211 CR), Marcus Aurelius Alexander Severus (208-235 CE) and Flavius Valerius Severus (fl. 306-07 CE). There are also a number of saints called Severus. It was first used as a given name in the English-speaking world in the 16th Century, though it is more widely used in Italy and Spain in the form Severo.

Sirius is well-known as the name of the brightest star in the sky. Bearing the scientific name Alpha Canis Majoris, Sirius is also known as ‘the Dog Star’ because of its place in the constellation Canis Major – one of the hunting dogs of Orion. It is the Latin form of the Greek seirios ‘the scorcher’, which comes from the verb seiraô ‘to be hot’ and ‘to scorch’, acquiring the name because it first rises at the hottest time of the year.  It, too, has also seen genuine first name use — the first examples appearing in the 19th Century.

Remus is an important figure in the legendary history of Rome. He and his twin brother Romulus were the founders of that famous city. Twin sons of Rhea Silvia and the God Mars, they were said to have been suckled by a she-wolf as babies — making it a good name for a werewolf. The brothers quickly fell out over which of them should give their name to their new city; Romulus settled the matter by killing Remus. In fact, both of the brothers’ names derive from the name of the city, rather than the other way around. Remus has been used as a real given name since the early 18th Century. Another famous literary Remus is Uncle Remus, the central character in Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus, His Songs and His Sayings: The Folk-Lore of the Old Plantation (1881), which is very much a thing of its time. Remo is used in Italy, Portugal and Spain.

Nymphadora is the feminine form of Nymphadorus – a genuine Ancient Greek male name. A shorter form of it – Nymphas – occurs in The New Testament. It comes from the Greek numphê ‘nymph’ and the verb didômi ‘to give’ – i.e. ‘given by a nymph/the nymphs’.

Bellatrix — such a good name for a bad witch! In Latin bellatrix means ‘female warrior’, and is the name of a star in Orion. In use for real since the late 19th Century.

Well, that’s all for now, folks. I plan another Harry Potter themed post to mark the cinema release next week, so watch this space!

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