Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Derivation of Binomial Names

Generic names

Generic names must be a word which can be treated as a Latin singular noun in the nominative case. 

Generic names are nouns that can come from anywhere. They can even be meaningless strings of letters, as long as they can be put into a Latin form and pronounced as if they were Latin. In practice, they tend to come from a few main sources.

a.       Classical Latin plant names :
Acer, “sharp” (maple),
Quercus , “oak tree” (oak),
Ilex, “evergreen oak” (holly).

b.      Classical Greek plant names :
Anemone , “daughter of the wind” (anemone),
Rhododendron, “rose of the tree” (rhododendron),
Carya, “nut” (hickory),
Hieracium, “hawk” (hawkweed),
Myrica, “fragrance” (wax myrtle).

c.       Names from Latin and Greek myths :
Andromeda (an Aethiopian king in Greek mythology),
Calypso (a nymph in Greek mythology),
Iris (a goddess in Greek mythology),
Liriope (a Boeotian naiad in Greek mythology),
Narcissus (a Boeotian hunter in Greek mythology),
Nyssa (a nymph in Greek mythology).

d.      Modern names made from one or more Greek words :
Chrysanthemum (chrysos “gold” + anthemon “flower”),
Lycopodium (lukos “wolf” + podion “foot”),
Philodendron (philo “love” + dendron “tree”),
Podocarpus (podos “foot” + karpos “fruit”),
Stenotaphrum (stenos “narrow”+ taphros “trench”), and many others.
This is probably the largest category of plant generic names.

e.       Latinized names of famous botanists and other people :
Albizia (Filippo degli Albizzi),
Camellia (Georg Joseph Kamel),
Cunninghamia (James Cunningham),
Forsythia (William Forsyth),
Gardenia (Alexander Garden),
Halesia (Stephen Hales),
Kalmia (Pehr Kalm),
Linnaea (Carl Linnaeus),
Magnolia (Pierre Magnol),
Serenoa (Sereno Watson),
Sequoia (Sequoyah),
Torreya (John Torrey),
Wisteria (Caspar Wistar),
Woodwardia (Thomas Jenkinson Woodward), and many others.
Probably the second largest category of generic names.

f.       Names from other languages :
Catalpa (Catawba - Catawba, Native American),
Musa (mauz - Arabic),
Nelumbo (Nelum - Sinhalese),
Nuphar (nīlōtpala - Sanskrit).

g.       Names from other sources :
Aquilegia (aquila “eagle”) – medieval Latin
Liatris (blazing star) – unknown origin,
Trilisa (deer’s tongue-an anagram of Liatris) – unknown origin,
Taxodium (Latin taxus “yew” ; Greek eidos “similar to”) -  mixture of Latin and Greek

-us / -er



Specific epithets

The second word, which identifies the species within the genus, must be a word treated grammatically as a Latin word.

The specific epithet plays one of three grammatical roles: 

1) an adjective modifying the genus name in gender
These adjectives must agree with the genus name in gender (masculine, feminine, or neuter), number (singular or plural), and case (for example, nominative or genitive) :
Lansium domesticum (langsat) - neuter
Nandina domestica (sacred bamboo) – feminine
Passer domesticus (house sparrow) – masculine

2) a noun in the genitive case meaning “of x” (where x is the noun that forms the epithet).  These genitives often commemorate the first collector of a species, in honour of a person, place of origin, or any descriptions of the species :
Acer palmatum – in allusion of the palm-like leaves of “Japanese maple”
Calocephalus brownie “cushion bush” described by botanist Robert Brown
Caltha palustris“marigold” of the marsh
Mangifera indica - “manggo” originated from India
Quercus alba – white colouredoak”

3) a noun “in apposition to,” or placed next to, the generic name
These nouns are to be in apposition to the genus name in gender :
Acer negundo, “Negundo maple” (box elder);
Adiantum capillus-veneris, “Venus’s-hair adiantum;”
Aesculus pavia, “pavia buckeye” (red buckeye);
Diospyros kaki, “kaki diospyros” (Japanese persimmon) ;
Zephyranthes atamasco, “atamasco zephyranthes” (Atamasco lily).

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