Binomial nomenclature

Orcinus orca, the killer whale or orca

Binomial nomenclature ("two-term naming system"), also called binominal nomenclature ("two-name naming system") or 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 (which may be shortened to just "binomial"), a binomen, binominal name or a scientific name; more informally it is also called a Latin name.

The first part of the name – the generic name – identifies the genus to which the species belongs, while the second part – the specific name or specific epithet – identifies the species within the genus. For example, humans belong to the genus Homo and within this genus to the species Homo sapiens. Tyrannosaurus rex is probably the most widely known binomial.[1] The formal introduction of this system of naming species is credited to Carl Linnaeus, effectively beginning with his work Species Plantarum in 1753.[2] But Gaspard Bauhin, in as early as 1622, had introduced in his book Pinax theatri botanici (English, Illustrated exposition of plants) many names of genera that were later adopted by Linnaeus.[3]

The application of binomial nomenclature is now governed by various internationally agreed codes of rules, of which the two most important are the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) for animals and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICNafp). Although the general principles underlying binomial nomenclature are common to these two codes, there are some differences, both in the terminology they use and in their precise rules.

In modern usage, the first letter of the first part of the name, the genus, is always capitalized in writing, while that of the second part is not, even when derived from a proper noun such as the name of a person or place. Similarly, both parts are italicized when a binomial name occurs in normal text (or underlined in handwriting). Thus the binomial name of the annual phlox (named after botanist Thomas Drummond) is now written as Phlox drummondii.

In scientific works, the authority for a binomial name is usually given, at least when it is first mentioned, and the date of publication may be specified.

  • In zoology
    • "Patella vulgata Linnaeus, 1758". The name "Linnaeus" tells the reader who it was that first published a description and name for this species of limpet; 1758 is the date of the publication in which the original description can be found (in this case the 10th edition of the book Systema Naturae).
    • "Passer domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758)". The original name given by Linnaeus was Fringilla domestica; the parentheses indicate that the species is now considered to belong in a different genus. The ICZN does not require that the name of the person who changed the genus be given, nor the date on which the change was made, although nomenclatorial catalogs usually include such information.
  • In botany
    • "Amaranthus retroflexus L." – "L." is the standard abbreviation used in botany for "Linnaeus".
    • "Hyacinthoides italica (L.) Rothm." – Linnaeus first named this bluebell species Scilla italica; Rothmaler transferred it to the genus Hyacinthoides; the ICNafp does not require that the dates of either publication be specified.


The name is composed of two word-forming elements: "bi", a Latin prefix for two, and "-nomial", relating to a term or terms. The word "binomium" was used in Medieval Latin to mean a two-term expression in mathematics.[4]

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Binomiale naam
العربية: تسمية ثنائية
Avañe'ẽ: Omboherokõiva
azərbaycanca: Binominal nomenklatura
Basa Banyumasan: Tatajeneng binomial
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Бінамінальная намэнклятура
भोजपुरी: दूपद नाँव
Cymraeg: Enw deuenwol
فارسی: نام علمی
français: Nom binominal
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Ho̍k-miàng
hrvatski: Dvojno nazivlje
Bahasa Indonesia: Tata nama biologi
íslenska: Tvínefni
עברית: שם מדעי
Kreyòl ayisyen: Nomanklati binomyal
Latina: Binomen
مصرى: اسم علمى
Bahasa Melayu: Tatanama binomial
norsk: Binominal
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Binar nomenklatura
پنجابی: سائینسی ناں
پښتو: علمی نوم
Simple English: Binomial nomenclature
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Binarna nomenklatura
Taqbaylit: Assaɣ ussnan
Tiếng Việt: Danh pháp hai phần
粵語: 雙名法
中文: 二名法