18 September 2003

Latinized surnames

Centuries ago, when Latin was the lingua franca of Europe, educated people used to adopt latinized forms of their own surnames. Thus the Dutchman Huig de Groot became Hugo Grotius (1583-1645), author of On the Law of War and Peace and father of international law. Similarly Johann Althaus, became Johannes Althusius (1557-1638), the father of modern federalism and a precursor to neocalvinism. Moreover, the authors of the Heidelberg Catechism, Zacharias Baer (or Bär) and Caspar Olewig, became Zacharias Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus respectively. In Sweden and Finland members of the clergy often had latinized names, like Lars Laestadius, who brought revival to northern Scandinavia in the 19th century.

I wonder what sorts of names we would choose if we were to latinize our own surnames?

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