Glossary of scientific naming

Glossary of scientific naming

This is a list of terms and symbols used in glossary of scientific 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

  • species complex a group of closely related species very similar in appearance, generally constituting a monophyletic taxon
  • alliance a group of species or genera that have at sometime been considered provisionally related.
  • ichnotaxon (ichnogenus, ichnospecies, etc.) A taxon (genus, species, etc.) only known by its work, e.g. footprints, nests, bite marks.
  • ootaxon (oospecies, etc.) A taxon (species, etc.) known from fossil eggs.
  • conspecific of the same species, for example of two taxa previously thought to be different species
  • congeners items of the same genus
  • circumscription the limits of a taxon as laid down by its description
  • sensu (Latin "sense") as in sensu stricto (in the strict sense), sensu lato (in a broad sense), etc. See sensu for more variants and details.
  • secundum - following, as in "Secundum Smith".


Rank names

The main ranks are kingdom (regnum), phylum or division (divisio), class (biology), order, family, 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 "form", "variety", "strain", "breed", "cultivar" 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).

Latin descriptions of names or taxa

Note that in zoology the phrase "conserved name", for example is acceptable.

  • nomen nudum (nom. nud.; plural: nomina nuda) – a name published without an accompanying description
  • nomen dubium (nom. dub.; plural: nomina dubia) – a name of questionable application
  • nomen illegitimum (nom. illeg.; plural: nomina illegitima) – an illegitimate name
  • nomen conservandum (nom. cons.; plural: nomina conservanda) – a conserved name
  • nomen protectum (nom. prot.; plural: nomina protecta) – a name granted protection
  • nomen suppressum (nom. supp.; plural: nomina suppressa) – a name that has been suppressed and cannot be used
  • nomen rejiciendum (nom. rej.; plural: nomina rejicienda) – a name that has been rejected and cannot be used
  • nomen oblitum (nom. obl.; plural: nomina oblita) – a name which has been overlooked and is no longer valid
  • nomen novum (nom. nov.; plural: nomina nova) – a replacement name
  • nomen vanum (plural: nomina vana) - a failed emendation
  • incertae sedis – of uncertain placement
  • ex errore – made in error

Abbreviations and symbols

  • var.variety
  • subvar. - subvariety
  • sp. (plural spp.) – species
  • subsp. (plural subspp.) – subspecies
  • f. - forma or form.
  • subf. - subforma
  • cf. (confer) – indicates approximate placement
  • s.s. - sensu stricto
  • s.l. - sensu lato

See also