Caesar, originally a Punic word meaning elephant(!?)

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Senior Member
According Johannes Lydus' De Mensibus, Book IV, "the truth determined by historians regarding this appellation of his is as follows: In the [2nd] Punic War, when Syphax was fighting with Hannibal, it is said that Gaius Rutilius — this man was an ancient ancestor of Caesar — while fighting in the front ranks, launched his spear against the Mauritanian with such force that he brought down the elephant on which his enemy was riding, and thus he took the nickname 'Caesar', because among the Phoenicians the animal [known as] the elephant is called kaisar".

This etymology, if true, is so pregnant and predictive as the way caesar/kaiser/tsar turned out to be in their realms is like the elephants in the animal kingdom.
  • While caesariēs "long hair, plume" must have been named so after the elephant trunk. The antique people, even the most educated ones, often look childishly naive: is there any idea that wasn't taken seriously by one or another Greek or Roman author?


    Senior Member
    French (France)
    In Punic, as in other Semitic languages, the word for “elephant” was presumably pīl. I do not see something resembling “caesar” for “elephant” in any language.


    Senior Member
    I do not see something resembling “caesar” for “elephant” in any language.
    Wikipedia says:
    Julius Caesar himself propagated the derivation from the elephant, an animal that was said to have been called caesai in the "Moorish", i.e. probably Punic language.
    Maybe "Moorish" refers to a native Maghrebi (Berber) language like Amazigh?


    Senior Member
    I traced the Wiki's source (here). It doesn't say Julius Caesar himself propagated the name. The source mentions 'elephant' as just one of several possibilities about the origin of the name. Besides, that source (Augustan History) is for 450 years after the death of Julius Caesar. So, the first part of Wikipedia's statement doesn't have present any reference.
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