Roman Names

Men's Names

At least two names were necessary for Roman men, the praenomen (first name, given name) and nomen (principal name, gens name). The nomen usually ended in -ius.

Many had a third name, the cognomen (additional name, nickname; often denoted a branch of a family).
The cognomen originally showed a peculiarity personal to one individual, e.g., Scaevola ("Lefty"), Balbus ("Lisper"), Cursor ("Runner", perhaps "Speedy"). An inherited cognomen, however, did not indicate a personal characteristic other than descent from the original holder of the name.
A second cognomen (or agnomen) could be added to show an achievement: P. Cornelius Scipio Africanus (conqueror of Africa).
A person adopted into another gens could also be identified by an adjectival name indicating his family of birth:
P. Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, the son of L. Aemilius Paullus; Scipio Aemilianus was born an Aemilius.

Some families were so large (and so often favored the same praenomen) that most men in the family soon acquired nicknames in order to be distinguished from each other, for example, the Metelli, many of whom [or at least many of those encountered in a history textbook] were named Q. Caecilius Metellus. But they are easy to tell apart when called by their last two names:
Metellus Numidicus = Q. Caecilius Metellus Numidicus (fought successfully in Numidia) and his son
Metellus Pius = Q. Caecilius Metellus Pius (so-called for his devotion to his father's rights)

There were few individual first names in common use; these were abbreviated on inscriptions and in documents. When pronouncing these names, it is proper to say the whole name, not the initial.

A.  Aulus
Ap. (App.)  Appius
C.  Gaius
Cn.  Gnaeus
D.  Decimus
K.  Kaeso
L.  Lucius
M.  Marcus
M'.  Manius
Mam.  Mamercus
N.  Numerius
P.  Publius
Q.  Quintus
Sex.  Sextus
Ser.  Servius
Sp.  Spurius
T.  Titus
Ti(b).  Tiberius

Women's Names

Women did not have a special praenomen and were called by the feminine form of their father's gens name. The first daughter born to a man named App. Claudius was called Claudia. If she had a younger sister, the older daughter became Claudia Maior and the younger Claudia Minor. If there were three or more daughters, they were called by numeric adjectives: Claudia Tertia, Claudia Quarta, Claudia Quinta. If the family used a cognomen, the daughter might also use the feminine form in addition, e.g., Claudia (Clodia) Pulchra (daughter of App. Claudius Pulcher), Caecilia Metella (daughter of Q. Caecilius Metellus).