May 12, 2017 by AK

The name of the praetorian prefect Macro, who (according to Tacitus and Cassius Dio) was driven to suicide by Caligula in 38 AD, is rendered as Macron in French. Thus, it fully coincides with the name of the new president of the French republic.

This -n pattern also applies to Polish and Russian, which apparently borrowed Makron from French or Italian (Macrone). Spanish has Macrón, almost identical to the Russian localization. The same pattern appears in Platón and other Greek and Roman names.


  1. JCass says:

    I think the Romance languages generally took their nouns from the Latin accusative rather than the nominative case. So Macron, Macrone etc. comes from Macronem. You can see this occur in French words borrowed by English, e.g. “nation” from accusative “nationem” rather than nominative “natio”. However, English tends to take proper names directly from the Latin nominative, so we have “Macro”. Paradoxically, this means English has “Plato”, the philosopher’s name in Latin, rather than the original Greek, which is indeed “Platon” (nominative).

    The Romance languages aren’t consistent in their behaviour though. Take the names of gods and planets. “Pluto” becomes “Plutone” in Italian and “Pluton” in French, as you would expect. But while the Italian for “Venus” is “Venere” (from accusative “Venerem”), in French it is “Vénus” and in Spanish “Venus”. Oddly, “Apollo” stays “Apollo” in Italian, is “Apolo” in Spanish and becomes “Apollon” in French. However, the Latin accusative is “Apolllinem”, so you’d expect Italian “Apolline” and so on. (My Italian dictionary tells me “Apolline”, with the stress on the second syllable, does exist but is considered highly literary).

    I think the only comparable example in English is “Jove”, sometimes used as a synonym for Jupiter (the god, not the planet). A peculiarity of Latin “Iuppiter” is that most of the oblique forms are based on the stem “Iov-“, so you get “Iovem” as the accusative.

    Polish sometimes behaves a bit unpredictably with these Latin nouns ending in “-o”. The genitive of Bruno Schulz is “Brunona Schulza”.

  2. Alex K. says:

    Russian also seems to prefer the accusative as far as I can tell. Венера, Юнона (acc. Iunonem), Фемида (acc. Themida), Эллада (acc. Hellada). Venus Willams, however, is rendered as Винус.

    • JCass says:

      Likewise Polish Wenera, Junona, Temida, Hellada. Maybe this is the source of the Russian names? I’m now reading up on how Latin culture spread to Russia…

      • AK says:

        From the online dictionaries I have checked, I see that both Wenus and Wenera are in use in Polish. I recall seeing “Госпожа Венус” in a Russian book from the 18th century, possibly Trediakovsky’s translation of Tallement’s “Voyage de l’isle d’amour.” I am sure Венера had appeared in the Russian language decades earlier, via Polish from Italian (Venere). Westernizers of the Petrine and post-Petrine years borrowed heavily from Western European languages, especially French, so the French form briefly competed with the Italo-Polish one. Nowadays, googling “Госпожа Венус” brings up a host of professional Dominas.

  3. JCass says:

    Testing. I still don’t get updated versions of this blog.

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