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Ancient Greek names also follow the pattern, with epithets (similar to second names) only used subsequently by historians to avoid confusion, as in the case of Zeno the Stoic and Zeno of Elea; likewise, patronymics or other biographic details (such as city of origin, or another city the individual was associated with, borough, occupation) were used to specify whom one was talking about, but these details were not considered part of the name.

A departure from this custom occurred, for example, among the Romans, who by the Republican period and throughout the Imperial period used multiple names: a male citizen's name comprised three parts (this was mostly typical of the upper class, while others would usually have only two names): praenomen (given name), nomen (clan name) and cognomen (family line within the clan) — the nomen and cognomen were almost always hereditary.

In 20th-century Poland, the theater-of-the-absurd playwright, novelist, painter, photographer, and philosopher Stanisław Ignacy Witkiewicz after 1925 often used the mononymous pseudonym Witkacy, a conflation of his surname (Witkiewicz) and middle name (Ignacy).

Mononyms in other ancient cultures include the Celtic queen Boudica and the Numidian king Jugurtha.

However, the historical records of some of these figures are scanty or rely completely on the documentation of those outside the person's culture, so it is possible such figures may have had other names within their own cultures that have since been lost to history.

Monarchs and other royalty, for example Napoleon, have traditionally availed themselves of the privilege of using a mononym, modified when necessary by an ordinal or epithet (e.g., Queen Elizabeth II or Charles the Great).

This is not always the case: King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has two names.

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