A very recent question asks about a phrase involving a best man. What would be a good Latin translation of "best man", the groom's assistant in a wedding? I don't think vir optimus really means this.

I don't know if there was a role analogous to a best man's in ancient wedding ceremonies, but some modern style weddings must have been recorded in Latin in sufficient detail to include the best man. However, I have not been able to find any such translation in online dictionaries or Google.

5 Answers 5


I'd go for pronubus, in its substantive meaning here (though Ovid's pronuba Tisiphone, while a terrifying image, is certainly compelling):

prōnubus, a, um, adj. pro-nubo, of or belonging to marriage, bridal, promoting marriage: canes, pimps, Tert. ad Nat. 1, 2: anulus, wedding-ring, id. Apol. 6: nox, the bridal night, Claud. Cons. Honor. 642: flamma, a bridal torch, id. Rapt. Pros. 1, 131: dextra, id. Epigr. 2, 53.

>—Hence, as subst. prōnubus, i, m., = παράνυμφος, auspex (2. b.), the promoter of a marriage, a groomsman, Anthol. Lat. 6, 50, 2: accepit maritum suum de amicis ejus et pronubis, Vulg. Judic. 14, 20.

— prōnu-ba, ae, f., a woman who attended to the necessary arrangements of a wedding on the part of the bride, a bridewoman (corresp. to the auspex on the part of the bridegroom), Varr ap. Serv. Verg. A. 4, 166; Fest. p. 242 Mull., Paul. ex Fest. p. 244 ib.; Tert. Exhort. ad Cast. 13; Cat. 61, 186; Stat. S. 1, 2, 11.

—Hence, Pronuba, an epithet of Juno, the patron goddess of marriage, Verg. A. 4, 166; Ov. H. 6, 43.

—Transf., of Bellona, as the presider over a marriage in which the bride is obtained by war, Verg. A. 7, 319; also, of one of the Furies, Ov. H. 2, 117; Luc. 8, 90; App. M. 8, p. 207, 3.


In the light of témoin, testimone, Trauzeuge, I would expect “testis”, though this might give rise to some ribald humour, as already in Plautus (quod amas, amato testibus praesentibus).


Suggestion .a.
Jerome interpreting John the Baptist: (Gospel of John, ch3.) has 'best man' as 'the friend of the bridegroom.'

  1. qui habet sponsam sponsus est amicus autem sponsi qui stat et audit eum gaudio gaudet propter vocem sponsi hoc ergo gaudium meum impletum est.

Suggestion .b.
In the Apocryphal Gospels, Architriclinus become the personal name of a master of ceremonies at a wedding.
In John Ch2 v9 it is the master of ceremonies at the Wedding. The word is transliterated from the Greek word for the 'Ruler of the Dinnertable.'


From discussions around my other question with a colleague, we came upon "praefectum prōnŭbus" as 'Commander of the Wedding-Attendants' to describe with an air of rank or authority the role of the best man.

  • 3
    Thanks! I think it should be praefectus instead of praefectum. And perhaps pronuborum instead of pronubus (master of attendants instead of master attendant), but that's a matter of taste.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 14:36
  • 1
    Two dictionaries give the event organizer as Auspex pronuptus, His first job was to choose the best day by bird-watching,
    – Hugh
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 17:18
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    @JoonasIlmavirta: Praefectus should probably go with a dative...
    – Cerberus
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 23:48
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    @Cerberus, dative does indeed sound a bit better. The genitive would surely be understood, though, but praefectus pronubis might be the way to go.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 23:51

The "Ancient Wedding Ceremonies" are, strictly speaking, still used by adherents to the Catholic 1962 Rituale Romanum, where it speaks of the wedding taking place between "two witnesses". These same witnesses have evolved over time to become the "best man" and "best woman" in English speaking countries.

Ergo, "testis", as mentioned above.

  • 1
    Well, the counterpart is actually called the "maid of honor" (or "matron of honor", depending on her own marital status), at least in the US... I'm not sure where the tradition of them being part of each spouse-to-be's wedding party, and of the defined same gender as them, came from.
    – Random832
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 18:38
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    Welcome to the site! I should mention that by "ancient wedding ceremonies" I referred to those used in ancient Rome before Christianity came around. Therefore I don't quite see the connection you make. The document you link to is interesting, though.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jul 20, 2016 at 18:45
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    Thanks! My only quibble is that I'm not entirely sure the concept of a "best man" existed in pre-Christian Rome. (Hence, the Jerome comment made above.) Of course there were wedding attendants, sure, and indeed promoters of the wedding, and of course head servants to attend to service of the guests. While the origin of "best man" as a term referring to the "main witness" seems shrouded in the middle ages, the Christian Weddings (at least as of Jerome above) do require a witness. In Italian, for example, (arguably the closest descendant of Latin) the term is Il Testimone dello Sposo. Commented Jul 21, 2016 at 1:55

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