ASK FATHER: What is St. Augustine’s true name?

From a reader…


I have a number of volumes of St. Augustine’s writings, almost entirely English translations. However, I recently acquired a volume of his writings in Latin and the title page refers to him as “Sancti Aurelii Augustini.” I was wondering if you could explain the significance of “Aurelii” and why it is added to his name. I believe it is the Latin word for golden and therefore assume it is some sort of title of honor, but I was curious about its origin and significance.

Thanks for all the good work you do for our Church!

Thanks for the interesting question.

Auctores scinduntur… authors are divided about the great saint’s name.

The main line is that Augustine belonged to the Roman family, gens, the Aurelia.  The gens Aurelia were Roman citizens.  Thus, his name, Aurelius Augustinus.

On the other hand, some suggest that Augustine acquired Aurelius along the way because Augustinus was on lists of participants of Councils in N. Africa immediately after that of the great Primate of Africa and Bishop of Carthage, Aurelius.  So, as Lancel puts it in terms of modern orthography, was the conciliar list really “Aurelius Augustinus” or was it “Aurelius, Augustinus”.

But, as I said, it is pretty much accepted that Augustine was from the gens Aurelia.

As Gerald Bonner says, the saint’s nomen is Aurelius, his cognomen is Augustus, and there is no information about a praenomen.

Of course we could have a little fun and take this another step.

How is the saint’s name pronounced?

Is it



We could have a poll!

Think about it.  There is another Augustine, of Canterbury.  Is his name pronounced differently from that of the Doctor from N. Africa?   How about the city in Florida?  Aby analogy, what about the name of the Emperor Constantine?

Everyone can vote, but only registered users can post comments.  And please do!

How is St. Augustine's name really to be pronounced?

View Results

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I think there is a correct answer, by the way.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Anneliese says:

    This blog post calls for the Confessionz rap.

  2. roma247 says:

    Technically since his name comes from the Latin, Augustinus, the stress would be on the penultimate syllable, so it would be Au-gus-TEE-nus, ne c’est pas?

    Likewise, from the Italian. Agostino.
    Where do the French place the stress? I’m going to guess it’s either at the first or last syllable, and not on GUS.

    It is distinctly a Britishism to put the stress on the GUS syllable, wouldn’t you say?

    So it depends on whether you subscribe to the British way of pronouncing it, or the Latinate/Romance language way of pronouncing it…which, losing its last syllable in English, tends to unconsciously transfer the stress to the first syllable.

    In order to give distinction between the two great saints with the same name, I therefore make a point of pronouncing Augustine of Canterbury according to the British Au-GUS-tine and Augustine of Hippo AU-gustine.

    I welcome any unraveling of this way of thinking, as it seems quite sound to me, but perhaps I am mistaken.

  3. JabbaPapa says:

    It’s :


    Accent – Accent – unaccented mini-semi-vowel – unaccented declension form

    So with relation to the forms suggested in the Poll :

    AU-GUST-i-n — 2 accents

  4. Hidden One says:

    Austin, TX, or Austeen, TX?


  5. Tristan says:

    Hidden One:

    Franken-stein or Fronken-steen?

  6. mepoindexter says:

    I’m going to assume in Latin the accent is on the ti, so I’m saying “Augustínus”, or AugusTINE.

  7. Mac in Calgary says:

    My wife went to St. AuGUStine Junior High before Bishop Grandin High School. If you want to see a really annoyed Catholic lady, mispronounce it as AugusTEEN.
    IMHO, the Latin pronunciation is irrelevant when speaking English. It’s relevant when speaking Latin.

  8. Sonshine135 says:

    His real name is Jake.
    Tongue firmly in cheek.

  9. Diana says:

    I so love your polls! :) Such fun!

  10. AuGUStin (????s’ti?n) is a saint (and a certain Dominican historian);

    AUgusteen (????s?ti?n) is a city in Florida.

  11. Josephus Corvus says:

    Ach, du lieber AUGustine,,,,

    (OK, so it’s about a different guy, but I’ll stick with that pronunciation.)

  12. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Austin and Austen are both Middle English forms of the saint’s name.

    So really it’s Jane Augustine.

  13. Eric says:

    My son’s name, after reading the Confessions. We do the AuGUStin. Unfortunately his friends shorten that to just…yes…GUS.

  14. Imrahil says:

    None of the above, but AugusTEEN. After all, the i in the Latin Augustinus is a long vowel, hence the stress is on the penultimate, which becomes the ultimate in English (and French, and perhaps other languages).

    If the name is to be properly anglicized, it apparently becomes Austin (OHstinn), which one finds in some English breviaries old enough to be trusted to do things correctly (“From a sermon … of St. Austin, bishop of Hippo”).

    (And if it must be one of the above, because we don’t want to say “Austin” but still think the stress on the ultimate is un-English, then the nearest approach to it in sound is to stress the semi-stressed and semi-stress the stressed, making it AUgusteen (but not Augustinn). Hence, I’ll throw in a half-hearted vote for the second alternative.)

  15. JabbaPapa says:

    Imrahil :

    None of the above, but AugusTEEN. After all, the i in the Latin Augustinus is a long vowel

    Doubtful in the Late Latin.

  16. roma247 says:

    Father! Father! You said you think there is a correct answer…but you haven’t revealed what it is! Do tell!!!

Comments are closed.