Princeton is a name that elicits feelings of wealth and stature. From acting as the name sake of a prestigious university to naming our most precious pets, it’s hard not to hear the name and think of a higher position in society or a retriever with a beautiful golden coat. But where does this name come from? Why would we associate Princeton with a well-bred, well-mannered pooch?
The history of Princeton can be traced all the way back to the Romans. In this time period, princeps was the term used as the official title for the leader of the Roman senate. It was also passed around for various other ruling positions as it was also used as a general term for someone with some bit of governmental authority. This word, however, was actually based on an even earlier word combination of primus, or “first”, with the verb capere, or “to take”.
From Rome, princeps entered into what was then Gaul (modern day France). While the land eventually lost the Romans, it gained a widely spread collection of territorial kingdoms that eventually united under a common language and shared history. It was this early France where princeps dropped the last two letters and became “prince” around 1200 CE.
Even though there were Roman territories throughout England, “prince” actually came to the English from the French. This is because Latin fell out of popularity in favor of French. If you were a lord or lady of the court around 1200, you were expect to speak fluent French, a practice that led to why modern English still uses so many French words.
However, “prince” isn’t the only part of “Princeton”, and English is what finally brought about the name we love to give our handsome dogs in a true marriage of high class customs and love of the vernacular.
Nowadays, there remain a lot of English names ending in “-ton”. This is an incredibly popular suffix originated from the Germanic languages that laid the groundwork for the emergence of Anglo-Saxon. While some translate it as “town”, it actually referred to an enclosure, estate or homestead and only later developed the “w”. When added to the back of a word, it was an easy way to describe a specific area based on a notable feature. Therefore a city bearing the name “Princeton” was understood to be a “prince’s town”.
Nowadays, the direct connection to royalty has been severed but the reverence still remains. Though some can go straight for a royal title, those that want to tone down the pomp and play up the propriety opt for “Princeton”. In addition, there are still many more dog owners out there that choose to name their pooch after their school. Though not a fad name like many other dog names, it has nevertheless remained a recognizable addition to the roster.