Tacita Dean - Film - Tate Modern

She’s a seldom used option with ties to the ancient world and modern art.

Thanks to Lila for suggesting Tacita as our Baby Name of the Day.

As Julia is to Julius, Tacita is to Tacitus.

Tacitus is, of course, a Roman name.  The first century historian Tacitus profiled many a major figure – Nero, Tiberius, Claudius, and even writes of the execution of Christus and persecution of his Christian followers.

It wasn’t a given name, but a cognomen – a third name.  In Ancient Rome, the third name was originally a nickname, given to note a characteristic.  Rufus for red hair, or Claudius, lame.  They quickly became hereditary.  It’s hard to know if Tacitus himself was known for being silent – it seems like an ironic nickname for a writer.

Tacitus is also the source of our word tacit – assumed.

Women could receive the feminine form of their father’s cognomen, or one related to their personal characteristics, or even to distinguish family members with the same name.  You’ll find women called Julia Major or Faustina Minor.

But Tacita has a story of her own, too.  Dea Tacita was a minor Roman deity, a goddess of the dead, according to Ovid.

She started out as Larunda, a chatty nymph who spilled too many secrets.  Or maybe she rebuffed the advances of Jupiter.  Either way, the nymph ended up having her tongue cut out as punishment, and left the earth for the underworld.

Being a goddess of the dead isn’t as goth or gory as it sounds.  Ancient Rome was a place where ancestors stayed with you.  Festivals encouraged families to visit their loved ones’ tombs, and to view them as household protectors.

But it could put Tacita in the same category as Lucretia – a little dark.

There’s a type of sea snail known as Tacita, but the best known modern bearer is Tacita Charlotte Dean.  A visual artist, known for working in film, she’s had her work on display at places like the Tate Modern.  (That’s a photo from her exhibition.)

Yes, Tacita is her real name.  She has siblings called Ptolemy and Antigone.  In an interview she once explained, “I once asked my mother why we had these names, and she said: it’s because you’re on going on the stage.”  That’s not such a wacky idea.  Her grandfather was Basil Dean, an actor turned filmmaker and early leader of the now legendary Ealing Studios.

Ms. Dean is almost the only bearer of the name.  Most years, fewer than five girls are called Tacita, and perhaps not even one.  She’s rare, rare, rare.

And yet, she’s almost stunning wearable.  Call her Tacy for short, in any spelling.  Or go nickname-free.

Tacita is almost completely unknown, but she’s intuitive to spell and pronounce.  Her meaning isn’t negative, and while her associations – death, etc. – are less than kid-friendly, none of that is well known.  Unless you’re a classics professor, chances are most of your friends and relations will not think of the minor goddess when they hear your child’s name for the first time.

If you’re after something ancient, different, and distinctive, Tacita could wear very well in our age.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. I like Tacita, the only negative thing I thing of Tacita (besides it’s uniqueness) is that it may be misheard as Taffeta. But really that’s a really petty reason not to use such a pretty name.

  2. I love Tacita! My husband works with a Tabitha (one of my favourite names) but was open to soundalikes, and this was the first name I thought of. I would use it in a heartbeat. It has that pleasantly clunky, virtue-name sound without the obvious label. Though as Katybug said, I think you’d be setting yourself up for a talker 😉
    My only fear is that my mother in law would insist on pronouncing it “Tuh-seeta”. When we mentioned the name Margaretha she gave us a withering look and said “You’re NOT naming a grandchild of mine after a drink!” She thought it was pronounced Margarita!

  3. What an interesting name, really quite lovely! My husband and I are both very quiet, taciturn people–would naming a child Tacita be blessing her with our quiet nature or asking for a little chatterbox?