Can You Guess How To Pronounce Apicius?

This week the Debs are talking about their character names. 

Writing a book set in Ancient Rome means that I have to work with a lot of names that are probably unfamiliar to people, such as Thrasius, Sotas, and Ruan. And, ironically, when I included ancient Roman names that have survived the centuries, such as the name Melissa, my readers told me that the name felt too out of place.

One name that I couldn’t futz with is the name of the character central to my book. Apicius was a real person, a gourmand,  who lived in the first century. His name is on the oldest known cookbook. And a famous restaurant in Paris, and a cooking school in Spain.

If you listen to the audiobook of FEAST OF SORROW (which I really think is fantastic!), you’ll hear the name of Apicius pronounced with a soft “c” sound like ah-pish-us. That’s how you’ll hear the name pronounced by modern users of the name. Except it’s not how the name would have been pronounced back in Apicius’s time. And it’s not how food historians pronounce it or anyone who speaks Latin.

It would have been pronounced with a hard “c.”  Like ah-pick-ee-us. Just like Caesar was said with a hard “c” and the Italian word for dinner, cena (now said like chay-nah), was also pronounced with a hard “c.”

At some point in medieval times the hard “c” of Latin switched to a soft one in Italian and voila! Great confusion on how to say the word Apicius. 🙂

There is a video on YouTube with a video of how to pronounce it, but it’s incorrect. Forvo (a wonderful language site!) has better examples.

To learn a little about how we know about the Latin and what it sounded like, give this video a watch. Super interesting, I swear!


Author: Crystal King

Crystal King is a writer, culinary enthusiast and social media expert. Her writing is fueled by a love of history and an obsession with the food, language and culture of Italy. She has taught writing, creativity and social media at Grub Street and several universities including Harvard Extension School and Boston University. Crystal received her masters in critical and creative thinking from University of Massachusetts Boston. She lives with her husband and their two cats in the Boston area.