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Names by the Numbers

posted by: karacavazos View all posts by this author
number names

By Kara Cavazos of The Art of Naming

There was once a time back in Ancient Rome when it was common to have several children. So many that parents sometimes numbered them via their names. If you couldn’t imagine naming your children one, two, three, four, five… you’re not alone.

Fortunately, there are Latin options that sound much cooler than that if you happen to find the idea of numbering your offspring to be appealing. There are also some updated, modernized versions of these old Latin names that are faring better than their ancient counterparts.

Many ancient names are being used again today with a renewed sense of style, such as Atticus, Maximus, Cyrus, Augustus, etc. But does this interest extend to these numerical names? Do they stand any chance for revival?  Let’s take a look at some of the possible choices per number.

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Back in the days when being an octomom –as in mother of eight– was no rarity, babies were often given a name that indicated their place in the birth order.  This began in the Roman Era, and was revived by the Victorians.

Now that ancient names (eg Atticus, Maximus), are coming back– partly influenced by the Septimus-type names heard in Harry Potterand starting to be seen as fresh rather than fusty, I thought we’d take a look at some of those long dormant number names—both Latin and others.


Prima — Perfectly plausible–and ego-boosting– name for a first girl, though rarely heard in this country other than as a surname (as in Louis P.) or terms like prima ballerina. Connie Sellecca and John Tesh used it for their now grown daughter, named after her maternal grandfather.

Primo —Historically, Primo has been among the most frequently used of the birth-order names, with its jaunty ‘o’ ending and Italianate flavor. It was the name of a Spanish saint, and author Primo Levi was a famous bearer.

Primus —The original form of the prime names; more appropriate to a Hybrid model car than a modern baby.

Una —Though this is an Irish name (Oonagh/Oona) with a different meaning, Una can also be thought of as a number one name and could be used for a first child. In literature, Una personifies the singleness of religion and the quintessence of truth and beauty in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, and it was a favorite character name of Rudyard Kipling.

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