Baby Girl Names from Ancient Rome

posted by: Nephele View all posts by this author

By Nephele

Modern Western civilization owes much to the legacy of ancient Rome, not the least of its many influences being found in our names.

In the ancient Roman system of naming, each citizen belonged to an ancestral group called a “gens,” and took his name from his particular gens. The traditional form of the Roman name existed in three parts: Roman males would be given a first name at birth, called a “praenomen,” followed by his gens name, and then a last name called a “cognomen” that identified the branch of the gens to which he belonged.

In the time of Rome’s early to middle era, there wasn’t much variety in women’s names. In fact, they generally were given the gens name of their father (in the feminine form), and daughters within the same family were usually distinguished from their sisters by an additional name indicating their position in the birth order.  So the first born would be Prima, the second Secunda, and the third Tertia, etcetera.

Despite the seeming lack of concern of the Romans of this period for bestowing unique names on their girls, we nevertheless have a number of lovely Roman feminine names to consider.  Those listed below are all feminine forms of the gens names that were in use by notable Roman families in the time of Rome’s Republic (509 BCE to 31 BCE), many of which are still heard today.  Those that are less familiar may make especially interesting choices for modern-day girls’ names.



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About the author


Nephele is the alias of an obsessive anagrammatist who for more than a decade has provided unique name makeovers for people on numerous Internet forums. Despite the popularity of Nephele’s anagrams, she is not prepared to give up her day job in an undisclosed public library in New York.
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24 Responses to “Baby Girl Names from Ancient Rome”

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MePregnant Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 1:30 am


This entry was posted on Monday, June 1st, 2009 at 12:25 am and is filed under Uncategorized, ancient names, classic baby names, girls’ names, guest bloggers, name history . You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 ……

CountryLizB Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 1:50 am

Virgilia would be nice to use in place of Virginia.

Rosamund Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 8:04 am

My favorites are Octavia and Aurelia. Thanks for a very interesting post!

Kate Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 8:25 am

I really like Livia, Lucceia, and Maevia. Very pretty!

Julia Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 8:53 am

Yay, thanks for this! Very interesting. I’m a huge fan of Livia, Octavia (if I ever have a daughter, this will be her name for sure), Aurelia, Cecilia and Antonia. It’s interesting – a lot of the names my parents considered for me were Roman names, and now most of my favourite names are Roman.

Shannon Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 9:17 am

Octavia is actually at the top of my list, I love it!

Emmy Jo Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 9:41 am

What lovely names! Personal favorites are Cassia, Junia, Aurelia and Octavia. Maevia has me intrigued — reminds me of the Irish Maeve, of course, though I would imagine it’s no relation.

Nephele Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 11:31 am

You’re right, Emmy Jo — the Roman “Maevia” is not related to the Irish “Maeve,” despite the similarity in appearance. The Roman “Maevia” can also be rendered as “Mevia,” although I think that “Maevia” is a more attractive spelling. The name comes from the Oscan dialect, its meaning lost to history. Unfortunately, this gens name has earned an unhappy association, thanks to a Roman critic named “Maevius” who was ridiculed by the great poets Horace and Virgil.

itsreelygreat Says:

June 1st, 2009 at 8:50 pm

I love most of these!!! My favorite girl name of all time is Aurelia.

mayberry Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 11:51 am

When I lived in France years ago, I knew a family with all Roman-inspired names: a boy named Romain and three girls named Laetitia, Domitille, and Ostiane.

Nephele Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 3:02 pm

A Roman-themed family in France! What fun, Mayberry!

“Laetitia” in Latin can mean either “joy” or “fertility.”

The name “Domitille” is clearly a French version of the Latin “Domitilla,” the name of the wife of the Roman emperor Vespasianus and the mother of the emperors Titus and Domitianus.

“Ostiane” is an interesting name. Is a French creation derived from the name of Rome’s great seaport: Ostia Antica?

mayberry Says:

June 2nd, 2009 at 11:19 pm

I am not sure (re Ostiane). Have never heard it before or since. Those last two were twins, BTW, and their nicknames–just used occasionally, within the family–were Tilou and Zaza. Don’t you love it?!

abbey Says:

June 3rd, 2009 at 4:28 am

Wow, I’m always told Octavia is far too ‘over the top and pretentious’ to use on an actual child – it surprises me to see a few people here who also have it as their top name. I would love to have an Octavia, but it seems we have boys every time 🙂

I like the idea of resurrecting some of these grander names. How is it that parents are now considered pretentious for using strong names with big meanings? Society has gone towards hyper-feminine names for girls and trendy or ‘cool’ names for boys. I love these ancient classics and know of a recently born Aurelia!

I LOVE this blog!

Lynn Says:

June 4th, 2009 at 11:06 am

When my youngest was born and my hubby reversed his decision on Jemima (AFTER she was born and named) I tried to find something that Jemma/Gemma could be short for. I hit upon the name of the Gemellian family, in Latin: la familia Gemelliana. The actual surname noun form is Gemellia.

Nephele Says:

June 4th, 2009 at 1:54 pm

What an interesting choice of name, Lynn! Gemellia is a Roman gens name that is derived from the Latin word “gemellus,” meaning “twin.” I like your idea of using “Gemma” as a nickname.

Sebastiane Says:

June 8th, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Mayberry: Ostiane is really beautiful. Tilou and Zaza are such adorable nicknames! I also love Liviana and Flaviana.

From this list I like,


apolonia Says:

July 2nd, 2009 at 11:09 pm

hey where’s APOLONIA?

Shan Says:

July 31st, 2009 at 1:26 am

We are hoping to use an ancient roman girls name if we have a girl. I didn’t know it was so difficult to find one though! We really like Livia and we heard Viviana is a roman name. Any other suggestions out there? I’m so glad I came across this blog!

Earth Says:

October 8th, 2009 at 8:57 am

Good article, thank you
If you are interesting 2012 year, by the way, welcome to us 🙂

GILBERT & SULLIVAN NAMES – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

December 22nd, 2009 at 12:16 pm

[…] to Nameberryites on the “Talk About Names” forum.  She wrote previously for us on Baby Girl Names from Ancient Rome and Flower Fairy Names  and has also contributed Colorful Crayon […]

Meggie moo Says:

March 15th, 2010 at 4:25 am

love the name Sosia and i know someone called virginia!!!

JEWISH BABY NAMES: A Passover menu of Yiddish names – Baby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

March 29th, 2010 at 12:33 am

[…] fun service to Nameberryites on the “Talk About Names” forum.  She wrote previously for us on Baby Girl Names from Ancient Rome and Flower Fairy Names  and has also contributed Colorful Crayon […]

Rosa Says:

September 26th, 2010 at 2:25 am

does someone knows the meaning of the name Rubria?

Nephele Says:

September 21st, 2011 at 1:44 pm

“Rubria” is the name of an ancient Roman gens, but it is most likely derived from the Latin word ruber, which refers to all shades of red, or could could describe a blushing complextion.

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