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The word Caesar may be used as a proper name, as a title, or as a common noun. The English pronunciation of Caesar is SEE-zer, IPA: /'siːzə/, though in classical Latin it would have been pronounced k-EYE-sar, IPA: /'kaɪsær/.(See also caesarean for the medical procedure - a caesarian section - commonly known as 'a caesar'.)

  • When used as a proper name, Caesar almost always refers to Julius Caesar, the great Roman general and statesman who was assassinated on the Ides (15th) of March 44 BCE. However, several English people have also been called Julius Caesar: ODNB lists Caesar [formerly Adelmare], Sir Julius, (bap. 1558, d. 1636), civil lawyer. He was the son of a naturalized immigrant from Treviso, in the then Republic of Venice, originally called Cesare [the Italian form of Caesar] Adelmare; the monument to his brother Henry, Dean of Ely, in Ely Cathedral records that he was Henry Caesar, "alias Adelmare", and that his father was a physician appointed doctor to both Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth; Julius himself served both James I (& VI) and Charles I. The Caesar, Julius (1656?-1712?), apothecary and composer, listed in the ODNB appears to have been "the son of Joseph Caesar, a grandson of Dr Gerard Caesar of Canterbury, who is generally supposed to have been a grandson of Sir Thomas Caesar", another son of Cesare Adelmare ("Dr Caesar"): the father's Italian forename having become his regular name in England, and a patronymic surname for his descendants. There was a Julius Caesar (1830-1878) who played 194 first-class cricket matches for Surrey between 1849 and 1867. He was the son of a baker, Benjamin Caesar.
  • Caesar was also one of the titles regularly assumed by the emperors who ruled the Roman Empire from 27 BCE until the end of the fifth century CE.
The earliest Roman emperors had Caesar as a family name. The first emperor, Augustus, was a grand nephew and the adopted son of Julius Caesar, and when he became emperor in 27 BCE his full title was Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus Augustus. The next four emperors - Tiberius, Gaius (often known by his nickname Caligula), Claudius, and Nero - all came from Augustus' extended family, each being adopted as a son and presumptive heir by his immediate predecessor. These emperors - sometimes referred to as the Julio-Claudian emperors since, like Augustus, they were members of the Julian and Claudian clans - had the name Caesar given to them as a family name on their adoption and proclamation as heir, and they retained the name on becoming emperor.
By the time of Nero, however, the name Caesar had come to be regarded as a title rather than a family name, and when Galba became emperor (in 68 CE) he took Caesar as one of his titles, even though he was not a member of the Julian or Claudian clans. After that, it became the regular practice for Roman emperors to have Caesar as one of their titles and to confer the title on their designated heirs.
At the end of the third century the emperor Diocletian (reigned 284-305) appointed a second emperor (Maximian) to rule the western half of the Roman empire while he (Diocletian) retained control of the eastern half; and some years later he appointed another pair of emperors, 'junior' emperors each of whom was to exercise authority under one of the 'senior' emperors and eventually succeed him. Under this system, which continued until the collapse of the Roman empire in the west, all four emperors had Caesar among their titles, but a 'senior' emperor was usually referred to as an Augustus and a 'junior' emperor as a Caesar.
  • The word Caesar or caesar - in this use the word need not have an initial capital letter - may be used of any emperor, dictator, autocrat, or powerful ruler. The word in this use often has a pejorative sense, reflecting our contemporary antipathy to autocratic or despotic authority. Among the words which derive from Caesar are Kaiser - pronounced k-EYE-zer, IPA: /'kaɪzər/ - and Tsar (alternatively spelled Tzar or Czar) - pronounced zah, IPA: /zɑː/.
    • Kaiser was the title of the rulers of the Austro-Hungarian empire and of the rulers of the German empire. The Kaiser usually refers to Wilhelm II (1859-1941, reigned 1888-1918), the last German emperor, who abdicated after Germany's defeat in the First World War. (Wilhelm II is sometimes referred to, more jocularly, as Kaiser Bill.)
    • Tsar was the title of the emperors of the Romanov dynasty, which ruled Russia from 1613 until the Russian Revolution and the abdication of Nicholas II in 1917. The word tsar, as a common noun, may also be used of any tyrant or autocratic ruler, but nowadays is often used without any pejorative sense to mean a person with significant power and authority in some area - as when, e.g., the individual appointed by the government to oversee its policy in relation to drugs is described as the government's drugs tsar.