The Word “Candidate” Comes from the Name of the Toga Worn by People Seeking Office.
Ancient Romans running for office wore a distinctive toga called the toga candida as they walked about the Forum seeking votes. What made the toga stand out was its color — bright white. Normal togas were the color of natural wool.
The idea was to make the candidates stand out (and perhaps also to warn citizens to stay away unless they wanted to be solicited). The color was supposed to suggest the wearer’s virtue and honesty. The whiteness was achieved by covering the toga with chalk.
Candida is the Latin word for bright white. A person who wore the bright white toga was called a candidatus.
The English word “candid” shares the same Latin root. Curious, since today we rarely hear the word “candid” used to describe a “candidate.”
- Image from Smith’s Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, p. 1136. According to the text the drawing is taken from an engraving in the Museo Borbonico and based on a statue found at Herulaneum.