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The Daily Genealogist: Name origin of Lucretia

(Name Origins) Permanent link
Julie Helen Otto

Julie Helen Otto
Staff Genealogist

LUCRETIA (f): Feminine form of a Roman family name. According to Livy and other Roman historians, Lucretia—daughter of Spurius Lucretius, prefect of Rome, and wife of Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus, was raped by a guest in her home, Sextus Tarquinius, son of Tarquinius Superbus [the proud], last of the kings of Rome. She made her way to her father’s house, summoned witnesses, and stabbed herself to death to avenge her honor and the insult to her husband. The incident set off the revolt that brought down the early monarchy and established the Roman Republic.

Her story was dear to the Romans (and to medieval, Renaissance and later readers of Roman literature) as an exemplar of womanly virtue, and has often been treated in art—the theme was popular in Renaissance art because it allowed the depiction of female nudes engaged in imparting a moral “lesson” and enforcing popular concepts of female virtue; as the Wikipedia article on her notes, writers, artists and musicians from St. Augustine to Megadeth have mined the tale.

LUCRETIA—related to Latin lucrum “profit, wealth” (derived from the Indo-European root *lau- “gain, profit” via “suffixed zero-grade form *lu-tlo”)—is a completely different name from LUCY, which is related to Latin lux “light” and lucēre “to shine” (which derive from the IE root *leuk “light, brightness” (Calvert Watkins, The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, 3rd ed. [Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011], pp. 48, 51). The name retains much of its patrician tone, but in colonial and later America, sometime appears in the nickname form “Cretia” [CREE-sha] or “Creesy.” One famous American bearer was Lucretia (Coffin) Mott (1793-1880), the American Quaker abolitionist, feminist, and social reformer.

Posted by Ellie Spinney at 04/11/2012 03:27:30 PM | 

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