What did the Romans ever do for us? Or more specifically, what did Caesar ever do for us, linguistically? The answer is: not as much as you might think.


A common misconception surrounding the great Roman emperor is that he donated his surname to the surgical method of childbirth, the Caesarean section, because this was the way he was born. However, although such operations did exist in ancient times, they would inevitably lead to the death of the mother, whereas Caesar’s mother, Aurelia Cotta, lived for another 46 years after Julius was born. In reality, the term comes from the Latin word caesus, meaning ‘to cut’. Still, it is quite probable that a predecessor of Julius was born by this method, leading to the family name; the Caesarean section gave the name to Caesar, not the other way around.

Another thing Julius Caesar didn’t give his name to is the Caesar salad. The dish was conceived by a Caesar Gardini, chef of Caesar’s Place in Tijuana, Mexico. One night, more diners arrived than he had anticipated and he had to put together a salad using the ingredients left in the fridge: lettuce, garlic, olive oil, cheese, eggs and croutons. The guests loved it and it went on to become known as the Caesar salad.

Julius did, on the other hand, lend his name to the Old English word casere which has since become archaic having been replaced by French and Latin equivalents. Casere was used as a title for emperors, particularly those between Augustus and Hadrian. In other languages, this evolved to become Kaiser in German and tsar in Russian.


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