One or more words used to distinguish a particular individual.
The Greeks, as is well known, bore only one name, and it was one of the especial rights of a father to choose the names for hi's children and to alter them if he pleased. It was customary to give to the eldest son the name of the grandfather on his father's side. The day on which children received their names was the tenth after their birth. The tenth day, called 'denate,' was a festive day, and friends and relatives were invited to take part in a sacrifice and a repast. If in a court of justice proofs could be adduced that a father had held the denate, it was sufficient evidence that be had recognized the child as his own.
Among the Romans, the division into races, and the subdivision of races into families, caused a great multiplicity of names. They had first the pronomen, which was proper to the person; then the nomen, belonging to his race; a surname or cognomen, designating the family; and sometimes an agnomen, which indicated the branch of that family in which the author has become distinguished. Thus, for example, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus; Publius is the pronomen; Cornelius, the nomen, designating the name of the race Cornelia; Scipio, the cognomen, or surname of the family; and Africanus, the agnomen, which indicated his exploits.
Names are divided into Christian names (first names), as, Benjamin, and surnames, as, Franklin.
No man can have more than one Christian name though two or more names usually kept separate, as John and Peter, may undoubtedly be compounded, so as to form, in contemplation of law, but one. A letter put between the Christian and surname, as an abbreviation of a part of the Christian name, as, John B. Peterson, is no part of either. In general a corporation must contract and sue and be sued by its corporate name yet a slight alteration in stating the name is unimportant, if there be no possibility of mistaking the identity of the corporation suing. It sometimes happens that two different sets of partners carry on business in the same social name, and that one of the partners is a member of both firms. When there is a confusion in this respect, the partners of one firm may, in some cases, be made responsible for the debts of another. It is said that in devises if the name be mistaken, if it appear the testator meant a particular corporation, the devise will be good; a devise to " the inhabitants of the south parish," may be enjoyed by the inhabitants of the first parish. When a person uses a name in making a contract under seal, he will not be permitted to say that it is not his name; as, if he sign and seal a bond " A and B," (being his own and his partner's name,) and he had no authority from bis partner to make such a deed, he cannot deny that bis name is A. & B. And if a man describes himself in the body of a deed by the name of James and signs it John, he cannot, on being sued by the latter name, plead that his name is James.