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A number of personal names in the works of Plautus end in -um in the nominative singular, which struck me as odd when I first encountered them, since nominative singular -um is characteristically found at the end of neuter nouns (specifically, those of the second declension). An example is Stephanium. In fact, all of these names seem to end more specifically in -ium.

I found names ending in -ium discussed briefly in one section of "Some Roman Slave-names" by F. F. Bruce. Bruce says that these are from Greek diminutives in -ιον, which were "mainly names of women". Women's names ending in -ium are grammatically feminine in Latin.1 (I'm not sure how names ending in -ιον behave in Greek.) Harm Pinkster gives the phrase "amoena Stephanium" as an example of this principle of semantic gender assignment2.

According to Anna Morpurgo Davies, although some women's names in Greek are neuter, no men's names in Greek are neuter3. Nevertheless, in the context of Latin, there does seem to be at least one example of a male name ending in -ium: Paegnium, the name of a male slave in Plautus' Persa, and one of the names of the character Tyndarus in Plautus' Captivi4. The Lewis and Short entry for Paegnium says that it comes from the Greek neuter noun παίγνιον 'plaything, toy', which LSJ says could also be used of persons in the sense "darling, pet". Philippides suggests a comparison with the Latin term delicium (p. 107).

Are there any examples other than Paegnium of male names ending in -um?

Citations

  1. Henry John Roby, Grammar of the Latin Language from Plautus to Suetonius, Part 1, p. 106

  2. Oxford Latin Syntax: Volume 1: The Simple Clause, p. 40

  3. Greek Personal Names and Linguistic Continuity, p. 21

  4. "Tyndarus' Past: The Name Paegnium in Plautus' Captivi", by Katerina Philippides, Classica et Mediaevalia 62:1 (2011).

  • 2
    Excellent question. Unrelated: I'm reading the Falco novels by Lindsey Davis, in which figure a striking number of men with names on -ia, such as Famia, Laeta. I have heard similar names, and I've asked a question about masculine nouns on -a, but wonder how realistic their abundance in Davis is. I associate them to some degree with Etruscan names, but Laeta, for instance, doesn't sound Etruscan to me. – Cerberus Mar 31 at 23:25
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Pinacium, a slave-boy in Plautus Stichus and also in Mostellaria.

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Alex B.'s answer of Pinacium is the only other example of a male name ending in -um that I have been able to find (aside from "Paecnium", which just seems to be a variant form of "Paegnium", and an unclear example I discuss in the next section below), so I have accepted that post. I wanted to make a post of my own to add some further information I have found about the name Pinacium.

  • It seems to be from the Greek common noun πινάκιον, a diminutive of πίναξ. It looks like pinacium was also used at least sometimes as a neuter common noun in Latin, since I get Google results for phrases like "pinacium ligneum".

  • In Stichus, there seems to be a wordplay involving this name and the Latin noun pictura (Studies in the Word-Play of Plautus, 1907, by Charles Mendelson, p. 23; also The Introduction of Characters by Name in Greek and Roman Comedy, 1923, by David Martin Key, p. 49). This suggests that the LSJ definition "small or bad picture" is relevant to the meaning of the name (mentioned by Charles Knapp in "References to Painting in Plautus and Terence", Classical Philology p. 152).

  • In "Plautus Undoing Himself", Sophia Papaioannou suggests that the name might allude to food, since πινάκιον could have the sense of "small plate", but I'm not convinced about this connection (Roman Drama and its Contexts, 2016).

  • The authors of some sources seem to have had the impression that Pinacium was a female name. For example, Auf Geschichte und Kritik gegründete lateinische Sprachlehre, by E.J.A. Seyferts (1800), lists "Pinacium" along with female -ium names like Crocotium, Dorcium, Glycerium, Chrysium, etc. and shows "haec" as the corresponding demonstrative (p. 66). I found some discussion of the possible source of this error in "The Scene-Headings in the Early Recensions of Plautus", by H. W. Prescott: Prescott indicates that this error may come from a scribal mistake in the "Palatine" manuscripts of the text that caused Pinacium to be given as the name of one of a pair of sisters in Stichus.

One other possible example: Tranium?

A footnote in "De nominibus propriis, quae sunt apud Plautum et Terentium" (Jahresbericht des Städtischen Katholischen Gymnasiums zu Patschkau), mentions Tranium as a possible third servant name ending in -ium (p. 21). This name seems to be from Mostellaria.

"The Declension of Greek Nouns in Plautus", by H. M. Hopkins, indicates that the form "Tranium" occurs only once, as a heteroclitic variant form of the proper name Tranio. It occurs in an accusative context ("eccum Tranium") so I'm not sure that it really counts as an example of what I was asking for.

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