A patrial name or geographical surname is a surname or second cognomen given to person deriving from a toponym, the name for a geographical place. It was particularly common in ancient Greece and Rome.[1] The lack of a family surname and use of a geographical cognomen as a surname may the sign of a lower class, such as courtesans when signing a contract.[2] With medieval writers, Christian, Jewish and Muslim, whose works circulated around many countries, geographical cognomens sometimes served to distinguish better than "son of," "ben" or "ibn."

Roman Military commanders often took a second cognomen, an agnomen, recalling a victorious campaign: Africanus, Asiaticus, Macedonicus, Numantinus. These may be inherited as in the case of Augustus who inherited the cognomen Thurinus.


Examples in formation of patrial names include:

1. definite article and noun - using a demonym (also called gentile name or gentilic, from Latin nomen gentile or gentilicium)

2. unclear: indefinite noun / adjectival forms

3. adjectives - a common Latin method for making a toponymic adjective is to add -[i]ensis

4. genitive "of" constructions

In examples 1 through 3, where the noun or adjective has case declension the partial name will typically decline in accordance with normal noun or adjective rules. For example, in Giraldi Cambrensis opera - "the works of [genitive] Gerald of Wales" - Giraldus declines to Giraldi (the genitive form of Gerald) and cambrensis (nominative adjective) declines to cambrensis (genitive adjective, but the same as nominative in this example). The declension is normally not followed when citing Latin patrial names in English, "of Giraldus Cambrensis," but may cause confusion when trying to identify the nominative spellings of patrial names from Latin or Greek sources.

Modern era examples

Modern era examples in Europe are generally limited to nicknames, or deliberate choices of a birthplace as a penname or stagename or change of name by deed poll:

See also


  1. ^ The New Century classical handbook Catherine B. Avery - 1962 "Toponyms (place names) also appear: Coriolanus, Norbanus, Sabinus, Soranus, Tusculanus.
  2. ^ Molière: A Theatrical Life - Page 42 Virginia Scott - 2002 "Taviani identifies Lucrezia as a courtesan because of her name that, in the fashion of courtesans, joins a Roman first name to a geographical surname and because the contract was signed in a house owned or leased by her at a time when "
  3. ^ Transylvania: Birthplace of Vampires - Page 32 Robert Z. Cohen - 2011 This onscreen Dracula was the creation of Transylvanian-Hungarian actor Bela Lugosi. Born Béla Blaskó in the western Transylvanian city of Lugoj (his stage name means “from Lugoj” in Hungarian
  4. ^ European culture: a contemporary companion Jonathan Law - 1993 "His professional name means 'from Brasso', his birthplace. After studying in Budapest and Berlin he moved to Paris in 1924, where he worked as a journalist; he did not take his first photograph until the age of 30.