The Ateneo Name
Fr. James J. Meany, S.J. explains that the name Ateneo is the Spanish form of Atheneum, which the Dictionary of Classical Antiquities defines as the name of “the first educational institution in Rome” where “rhetoricians and poets held their recitations.” Fr. Meany further explains that Hadrian’s Roman school drew its title from a Greek temple dedicated to Athena, the goddess of wisdom, where, the Encyclopedia Britannica says “poets and men of learning were accustomed to meet and read their productions.”
Atheneum is also used to designate schools and literary clubs, a famous example of which is the Atheneum Angelicum, a Dominican center of learning in Rome. Its closest English translation is academy, pertaining to institutions of secondary learning. In fact the Escuela Municipal de Manila became an Ateneo only after it began offering secondary education in 1865. It became known then as the Ateneo Municipal de Manila. But in the Philippines, the name Ateneo is not merely a common Spanish noun. The Society of Jesus established several other Ateneos since 1865, and over the years, the name Ateneo has become recognized as the official title of Jesuit institutions of higher learning.
When America withdrew government subsidy from the Ateneo in 1901, Father Rector Jose Clos, S.J. dropped municipal from the school name, and it became the Ateneo de Manila, a name it keeps to this day. And since its university charter was granted in 1959, the school has officially been called the Ateneo de Manila University.