I am currently reading Grotius' De iure belli ac pacis (On the law of war and peace, 1625) in the French translation by Paul-Louis-Ernest Pradier-Fodéré (Le droit de la guerre et de la paix, 1865).

At some point, this author says that the full real name of Grotius is Hugues de GROOT (in French), or Huig de Groot (in Dutch, according to Wikipedia).

However, it is never said why this man was called "Grotius". How and why did "Huig de Groot" became "Grotius"?

1 Answer 1


Because he was a Renaissance scholar and Latinising names was a thing they did....

The Latinisation of names in the vernacular was a procedure deemed necessary for the sake of conformity by scribes and authors when incorporating references to such persons in Latin texts. The procedure was used in the era of the Roman Republic and Empire. It was used continuously by the Papacy from the earliest times, in religious tracts and in diplomatic and legal documents. It was used by the early European monasteries. Following the Norman Conquest of England, it was used by the Anglo-Norman clerics and scribes when drawing up charters. Its use was revived in the Renaissance when the new learning was written down in Latin and drew much on the work of Greek, Arabic and other non-Latin ancient authors.

[my bolding]

In central European circles of academia and ecclesial writers, a specific practice of Latinisation arose during the 15th century with the rediscovery of ancient literature. Thereby writers would seek connection to the ancient writers by taking up surnames or international pen names.

  • Some such names were also literal translations, e.g. Philip Melanchthon. Commented May 20, 2022 at 15:35
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    Some Renaissance folks who are better known nowadays by their latinized names are Stradivarius, Nostradamus, and Copernicus. Commented May 20, 2022 at 17:28
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    It wasn't just a fad. If one wrote for an international audience, one wrote in Latin, and had (by the conventions of the time) to come up with a Latin version of one's name. to make the title page grammatically correct. So "Six books on human anatomy by Andries van Wesel, of Brussels, professor of medicine at the Padua medical school" comes out as "Andreae Vesalii Bruxellensis, scholae medicorum Patauinae professoris, De humani corporis fabrica libri septem", and so on. Commented May 20, 2022 at 18:31
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    And it was common to translate names at least until the 18th century. I have an ancestor who was a composer: he published as Johann Nisle in Germany, Jean Nisle in France, and Giovanni Nisle in Italy. Commented May 20, 2022 at 20:47
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    @MichaelKay And into the late 19th. When German publishers first published works by Antonín Dvořák, they Germanised his first name to Anton. And British publishers used to Anglicise Georg Friedrich Händel into George Frederick Handel. The Amadeus of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is a Latinisation. Mozart preferred Amadé.
    – Rosie F
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 5:23

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