Glossary of scientific naming

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Linnaeus' Species Plantarum (1753) Species plantarum 001.jpg
Linnaeus' Species Plantarum (1753)

This is a list of terms and symbols used in scientific names for organisms, and in describing the names. For proper parts of the names themselves, see List of Latin and Greek words commonly used in systematic names. Note that many of the abbreviations are used with or without a stop.


Naming standards and taxonomic organizations and their codes and taxonomies

General terms


Rank names

The main ranks are kingdom (regnum), phylum or division (divisio), class (classis), order (ordo), family (familia), genus and species. The ranks of section and series are also used in botany for groups within genera, while section is used in zoology for a division of an order. Further levels in the hierarchy can be made by the addition of prefixes such as sub-, super-, infra-, and so on.

Divisions such as "morph", "form", "variety", "strain", "breed", "cultivar", hybrid (nothospecies) and "landrace" are used to describe various sub-specific groups in different fields.

It is possible for a clade to be unranked, for example Psoroptidia (Yunker, 1955) and the SAR supergroup. Sometimes a rank is described as clade where the traditional hierarchy cannot accommodate them.

Latin descriptions of names or taxa

Note that in zoology the English descriptions, such as "conserved name", for example, are acceptable and generally used. These descriptions can be classified between accepted names (nom. cons., nom. nov., nom. prot.) and unaccepted combinations for different reasons (nom. err., nom. illeg., nom. nud., nom. rej., nom. supp., nom. van.), with some cases in between regarding the use (nom. dub.: used but not fully accepted; nom. obl.: accepted but not fully used, so it yields precedence to a nom. prot).

Latin abbreviations

English abbreviations


See also

Related Research Articles

Genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms as well as viruses. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family. In binomial nomenclature, the genus name forms the first part of the binomial species name for each species within the genus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Binomial nomenclature</span> System of identifying species of organisms using a two-part name

In taxonomy, binomial nomenclature, also called binary nomenclature, is a formal system of naming species of living things by giving each a name composed of two parts, both of which use Latin grammatical forms, although they can be based on words from other languages. Such a name is called a binomial name, a binomen, binominal name, or a scientific name; more informally it is also historically called a Latin name. In the ICZN, the system is also called binominal nomenclature, "binomi'N'al" with an "N" before the "al", which is not a typographic error, meaning "two-name naming system".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">International Code of Zoological Nomenclature</span> Code of scientific nomenclature for animals

The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is a widely accepted convention in zoology that rules the formal scientific naming of organisms treated as animals. It is also informally known as the ICZN Code, for its publisher, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature. The rules principally regulate:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Type (biology)</span> Specimen(s) to which a scientific name is formally attached

In biology, a type is a particular specimen of an organism to which the scientific name of that organism is formally associated. In other words, a type is an example that serves to anchor or centralizes the defining features of that particular taxon. In older usage, a type was a taxon rather than a specimen.

<i>Nomen nudum</i> Term used in nomenclature ("naked name")

In taxonomy, a nomen nudum is a designation which looks exactly like a scientific name of an organism, and may have originally been intended to be one, but it has not been published with an adequate description. This makes it a "bare" or "naked" name, which cannot be accepted as it stands. A largely equivalent but much less frequently used term is nomen tantum. Sometimes, "nomina nuda" is erroneously considered a synonym for the term "unavailable names". However, not all unavailable names are nomina nuda.

In binomial nomenclature, a nomen dubium is a scientific name that is of unknown or doubtful application.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Syntype</span> Taxonomic term

In biological nomenclature, a syntype is any one of two or more biological types that is listed in a description of a taxon where no holotype was designated. Precise definitions of this and related terms for types have been established as part of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants.

In zoological nomenclature, author citation is the process in which a person is credited with the creation of the scientific name of a previously unnamed taxon. When citing the author of the scientific name, one must fulfill the formal requirements listed under the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. According to Article 51.1 of the Code, "The name of the author does not form part of the name of a taxon and its citation is optional, although customary and often advisable." However, recommendation 51A suggests, "The original author and date of a name should be cited at least once in each work dealing with the taxon denoted by that name. This is especially important and has a unique character between homonyms and in identifying species-group names which are not in their native combinations". For the sake of information retrieval, the author citation and year appended to the scientific name, e.g. genus-species-author-year, genus-author-year, family-author-year, etc., is often considered a "de-facto" unique identifier, although this usage may often be imperfect.

In botanical nomenclature, author citation is the way of citing the person or group of people who validly published a botanical name, i.e. who first published the name while fulfilling the formal requirements as specified by the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN). In cases where a species is no longer in its original generic placement, both the authority for the original genus placement and that for the new combination are given.

In zoological nomenclature, the valid name of a taxon is the correct scientific name for that taxon. The valid name must be used for that taxon, regardless of any other name that may currently be used for that taxon, or may previously have been used. A name can only be valid when it is an available name under the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN); if a name is unavailable, then it cannot be considered either valid or invalid.

In biology, a homonym is a name for a taxon that is identical in spelling to another such name, that belongs to a different taxon.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Conserved name</span> Conserved name (a protected scientific name)

A conserved name or nomen conservandum is a scientific name that has specific nomenclatural protection. That is, the name is retained, even though it violates one or more rules which would otherwise prevent it from being legitimate. Nomen conservandum is a Latin term, meaning "a name to be conserved". The terms are often used interchangeably, such as by the International Code of Nomenclature for Algae, Fungi, and Plants (ICN), while the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature favours the term "conserved name".

In zoological nomenclature, a nomen oblitum is a disused scientific name which has been declared to be obsolete in favour of another 'protected' name.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Paratype</span> Taxonomic term

In zoology and botany, a paratype is a specimen of an organism that helps define what the scientific name of a species and other taxon actually represents, but it is not the holotype. Often there is more than one paratype. Paratypes are usually held in museum research collections.

In biological nomenclature, a nomen novum, new replacement name is a scientific name that is created specifically to replace another scientific name, but only when this other name cannot be used for technical, nomenclatural reasons. It does not apply when a name is changed for taxonomic reasons. It is frequently abbreviated, e.g.nomen nov., nom. nov..

The Botanical and Zoological Codes of nomenclature treat the concept of synonymy differently.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Principle of priority</span> Principle of botanical and zoological nomenclature

Priority is a fundamental principle of modern botanical nomenclature and zoological nomenclature. Essentially, it is the principle of recognising the first valid application of a name to a plant or animal. There are two aspects to this:

  1. The first formal scientific name published for a plant or animal taxon shall be the name that is to be used, called the valid name in zoology and correct name in botany.
  2. Once a name has been used, no subsequent publication of that name for another taxon shall be valid (zoology) or validly published (botany).

In zoological nomenclature, an available name is a scientific name for a taxon of animals that has been published after 1757 and conforming to all the mandatory provisions of the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature for the establishment of a zoological name.

In biodiversity informatics, a chresonym is the cited use of a taxon name, usually a species name, within a publication. The term is derived from the Greek χρῆσις chresis meaning "a use" and refers to published usage of a name.

<i>Nomen illegitimum</i> Latin term meaning "illegitimate name", used mainly in botany.

Nomen illegitimum is a technical term, used mainly in botany. It is usually abbreviated as nom. illeg. Although the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants uses Latin terms for other kinds of name, the glossary defines the English phrase "illegitimate name" rather than the Latin equivalent. However, the Latin abbreviation is widely used by botanists and mycologists.


  1. Alvaro Mones (30 June 1989). "Nomen Dubium vs. Nomen Vanum". Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology. 9 (2): 232–234. Bibcode:1989JVPal...9..232M. doi:10.1080/02724634.1989.10011757.
  2. On the use of the term nomen vanum in taxonomy. John Chorn and Kenneth N. Whetstone. Museum of Natural History, Kansas, Lawrence 66045. Journal of Paleontology vol 52 no. 2, March 1978