In the Roman empire, people were given three names: a praenomen (personal name), nomen (family name), and cognomen (originally a nickname, later used as another family name). For example, the politician Cicero's full name was Marcus Tullius Cicero (pronounced kee-ker-oh in Latin), with Cicero being a cognomen meaning "chickpea". Apparently, one of his ancestors had a cleft in his nose that looked like a chickpea, and the term stuck. Several other cognomens also had to do with legumes - Lentulus, Fabius, and Piso meant "lentil", "bean", and "pea" - and many more followed earthy or simple themes. The Caesar part of Julius Gaius Caesar may have meant something like "head of hair", "bluish-gray", or something else, depending on which historians you consult.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a junior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.