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How to … Correctly form a generic name


The name of a genus is a nominative singular noun, or a different kind of word treated as such, and is written with an initial capital letter (Art. 20.1). It may be taken from any source whatever, and may even be composed in an absolutely arbitrary manner or be an anagram, but it must not end in ‑virus.

Most generic names are descriptive, or honour a person. Generic names may be formed from a word in any language. Avoid words that are commonly used in common languages. For example, while there is no rule precluding a genus called Tree, it would clearly be confusing to many users.


A generic name may not consist of two words, unless they are joined by a hyphen (but hyphens are not to be used in names of fossil-genera).


Note that a generic name may not coincide with a Latin technical term in use in morphology at the time of publication; such names cannot nowadays be validly published.

The following Recommendations should be followed when coining generic names (adapted from Rec. 20A.1):

(a) Use Latin terminations as far as possible.

(b) Avoid names not readily adaptable to the Latin language.

(c) Avoid names that are very long or difficult to pronounce in Latin.

(d) Avoid combining words from different languages.

(e) Indicate, if possible, by the formation or ending of the name the affinities or analogies of the genus.

(f) Avoid adjectives used as nouns.

(g) Do not use a name similar to or derived from the epithet in the name of one of the species of the genus.

(h) Do not dedicate genera to persons quite unconnected with botany, mycology, phycology, or natural science in general.

(i) All personal generic names, whether they commemorate a man or a woman, should be in the feminine form.

(j) Do not form generic names by combining parts of two existing generic names, because such names are likely to be confused with nothogeneric names (intergeneric hybrid names).

For more information, see Chapter 5 How to publish a new name in The Code Decoded.

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

You can submit questions here.

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