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An aquiline nose (also called a Roman nose or hook nose):

is a human nose with a prominent bridge, giving it the appearance of being curved or slightly bent. The word aquiline comes from the Latin word aquilinus ("eagle-like"), an allusion to the curved beak of an eagle.

(Wikipedia)

Why is an aquiline nose also called "Roman" nose?

Do the two definitions refer to the same kind of nose or are there differences between them?

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    Because Italians have big noses, and describing someone's nose as big has insulting connotations, but describing it as Roman, conjuring aristocratic images of marble and Caeser and of of the most venerated empires in the history of mankind softens the blow a bit. And don't shoot me - I'm half Italian. And the other half Jewish. So you can picture my nose.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 19, 2016 at 21:27
  • @DanBron - I see, but the same could be true also for Ancient Greece marble statues.
    – user 66974
    Jun 19, 2016 at 21:36
  • Do Greeks have big noses? That's a serious question, I don't know.
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 19, 2016 at 21:37
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    @DanBron - I am not sure it is about "big" noses, but hooked ones, if I understand the meaning correctly.
    – user 66974
    Jun 19, 2016 at 21:38
  • Yeah, that is closer to the truth, I imagine
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 19, 2016 at 21:53

3 Answers 3

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Roman nose and aquiline nose are synonymous.

Oxford Dictionaries defines Roman nose as:

a nose with a high bridge.

Oxford Dictionaries defines aquiline as:

(Of a person's nose) hooked or curved like an eagle's beak.

A nose with a high bridge is hooked or curved like an eagle's beak. So absent particular connotations elicited by "Rome" and "eagle", the terms are synonymous.


As to the question of why an aquiline nose is also called a Roman nose, it is (presumably) because that particular facial morphology is associated (not necessarily justly) with people from Italy, or, more broadly, the Mediterranean region once controlled by the Roman Empire. The page you link in your question even declares that the nose is "often seen in the Mediterranean race".


Regarding earliest uses, Etymonline says "Roman nose is from 1620s" and Dictionary.com traces its origin to between 1615-1625.

Here are some of the earliest occurrences (I could find) of the term used with its morphological sense:

A surly Nonconformist Teacher,
By solemn Face, some Alley Preacher,
With Lanthorn Jaws and Roman Nose,
A flapping Hat without a Rose

(E. Ward, The Wandring Spy, 1729)

[...] and from thence this examinate and sir Thomas Harris went to his house at Boreacton that night, where he found one mr. Kynaston, a tall man, with a lean face, and a Roman nose; but did not see him afterwards.

(A Collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, 1742)

It is unlikely that either of these is a first occurrence, but these passages demonstrate that the expression was used at least as early as 1729.

In a translation of Rabelais, aquiline nose is used as early as 1738:

Panurge was of a middle stature, not too high nor too low, and had somewhat an aquiline nose, made like the handle of a razor.

(Translated by J. Ozell, The works of Francis Rabelais, 1738)

Rabelais' original phrase was le nez un peu aquilin ("a slightly aquiline nose"—page 173, here). This was originally written ca. 1532, which lends plausibility to the idea that aquiline nose could have been in English circulation as early as then.

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The word eagle is aquila in Italian, and it is well-known that an eagle's "nose" is curved; a hooked nose in English is often called a beak or beaked nose.

Adj.1. beaked - having or resembling a beak.

The first picture on the left, depicts an eagle's head whose beak is compared to that of the gentleman's nose. The description (translated) says:

Naso adunco o aquilino: magnanimi e animo regale
Hooked nose or aquiline; magnanimous and noble person (regal/royal= noble)

enter image description here

If we consider that one of the most iconic Roman emperors, Tiberius, had an aquiline nose himself, it's easy to see why aquiline (“aquilino”) and (“Romano”) became associated with one and the other.

enter image description here

Of possible interest

The eagle has long been associated with the Roman Empire, it represented the city's political and sovereign power. The soldier who had the honour of carrying the legion's standard was called an aquilifer. The protection of the eagle, the Empire's emblem, was paramount and soldiers were expected to protect it even at the cost of their own lives.

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    In the "infographic" above, the face paired with the dog is actually a Roman nose. A Roman nose is perfectly straight and there is little to no dip from the brow to the bridge. Like most Greek (actually) astatues that the Romans made so many copies/exact replicas of (more than "copied" as in copped).
    – James
    Oct 17, 2017 at 20:32
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I always thought of and heard "aquiline nose" as a term of flattery a fine curved nose whereas a "Roman nose" was used to describe a large curved nose.

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    Welcome to English Language & Usage. This answer will be taken more seriously if you have citations for the information.
    – J. Taylor
    Mar 9, 2018 at 21:13

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