How to … Check for confusable epithets

Specific epithets in the same genus that are very similar may be regarded as confusable, meaning that the names are treated as homonyms and the later homonym is illegitimate (Art. 53.2). Or, even if they are not treated as homonyms, they may still be confusing for users.

The same applies to infraspecific epithets in the same species or to epithets of subdivisions (e.g. subgenera or sections) in the same genus.

It is good practice when naming to check for very similar epithets.


For plants, this can be conveniently done by searching the International Plant Names Index (IPNI) using wildcard characters (asterisks * ) in the appropriate search boxes.

For example, if you plan to name Viola dixonii, checking IPNI for "Viola di*" would return, among other names, Viola dicksonii. You may choose to change your epithet.

Do you have another general nomenclatural question, and want a how-to guide to help?

You can submit questions here.