The common raven was one of the many species originally described by
Linnaeus in his 18th century work,
Systema Naturae, and it still bears its original name of Corvus corax.
 It is the
type species of the genus
Corvus, derived from the
Latin word for "raven".
 The specific epithet, corax/κοραξ, is the
Ancient Greek word for "raven" or "crow".
The modern English word raven has cognates in all other
Germanic languages, including
Old Norse (and subsequently
modern Icelandic) hrafn
Old High German (h)raban,
 all which descend from
 An old
Scottish word corby or corbie, akin to the French corbeau, has been used for both this bird and the
collective nouns for a group of ravens (or at least the common raven) include "unkindness"
 and "conspiracy".
 In practice, most English-speakers use the more generic "flock".
The closest relatives of the common raven are the
brown-necked raven (C. ruficollis), the
pied crow (C. albus) of Africa, and the
Chihuahuan raven (C. cryptoleucus) of the North American southwest.
 While some authorities have recognized as many as 11
 others recognize only eight:
|C. c. corax
||From Europe eastwards to
Lake Baikal, south to the
Caucasus region and northern
||It has a relatively short, arched bill. The population in south-western Europe (including the
Sardinia) has an even more arched bill and shorter wings than "typical" nominate, leading some authorities to recognize it as a separate subspecies, C. c. hispanus.
|C. c. varius
Iceland and the
||It is less glossy than C. c. principalis or nominate corax, is intermediate in size, and the bases of its neck feathers are whitish (not visible at a distance). An
color morph found only on the Faroes is known as the
|C. c. subcorax
||From Greece eastwards to north-west India, Central Asia and western China though not the
||It is larger than the nominate form, but has relatively short throat feathers (hackles). Its plumage is generally all black, though its neck and breast have a brownish tone similar to that of the brown-necked raven; this is more evident when the plumage is worn. The bases of its neck feathers, although somewhat variable in colour, are often almost whitish.
The name C. c. laurencei (also spelt lawrencii or laurencii) is sometimes used instead of C. c. subcorax.
 It is based on the population from
Sindh described by
Hume in 1873
 and is sometimes preferred since the type specimen of subcorax collected by
Nikolai Severtzov is possibly a
The population restricted to the
Sindh district of Pakistan and adjoining regions of northwestern India is sometimes known as the Punjab Raven.
|C. c. tingitanus
||North Africa and the
||It is the smallest subspecies, with the shortest throat hackles and a distinctly oily plumage gloss. Its bill is short but markedly stout, and the
culmen is strongly arched. Canary Islands ravens are browner than the North African ravens, leading some authorities to treat them as separate subspecies, with the latter maintaining the name C. c. tingitanus and the former known as C. c. canariensis.
|C. c. tibetanus
||It is the largest and glossiest subspecies, with the longest throat hackles. Its bill is large but less imposing than that of C. c. principalis, and the bases of its neck feathers are grey.
|C. c. kamtschaticus
||Intergrades into the nominate subspecies in the
Baikal region. It is intermediate in size between C. c. principalis and C. c. corax and has a distinctly larger and thicker bill than does the nominate race.
|C. c. principalis
||Northern North America and
||It has a large body and the largest bill, its plumage is strongly glossed, and its throat hackles are well developed.
|C. c. sinuatus, the western raven
||South-central USA and Central America.
||It is smaller, with a smaller and narrower bill than C. c. principalis. Populations in far south-western USA and north-western Mexico (including the
Revillagigedo Islands) are the smallest in North America. They are sometimes included in C. c. sinuatus, while other authorities recognize them as a distinct subspecies, C. c. clarionensis.
The common raven evolved in the
Old World and crossed the
Bering land bridge into North America.
 Recent genetic studies, which examined the
DNA of common ravens from across the world, have determined that the birds fall into at least two
California clade, found only in the southwestern United States, and a
Holarctic clade, found across the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Birds from both clades look alike, but the groups are genetically distinct and began to diverge about two million years ago.
The findings indicate that based on
mitochondrial DNA, common ravens from the rest of the United States are more closely related to those in Europe and Asia than to those in the California clade, and that common ravens in the California clade are more closely related to the
Chihuahuan raven (C. cryptoleucus) than to those in the Holarctic clade.
 Ravens in the Holarctic clade are more closely related to the
pied crow (C. albus) than they are to the California clade.
 Thus, the common raven species as traditionally delimited is considered to be
One explanation for these genetic findings is that common ravens settled in California at least two million years ago and became separated from their relatives in Europe and Asia during an
ice age. One million years ago, a group from the California clade evolved into a new species, the Chihuahuan raven. Other members of the Holarctic clade arrived later in a separate migration from Asia, perhaps at the same time as humans.
A recent study of raven mitochondrial DNA showed that the isolated population from the
Canary Islands is distinct from other populations.
 The study did not include any individuals from the North African population,
 and its position is therefore unclear, though its
morphology is very close to the population of the Canaries (to the extent that the two are often considered part of a single subspecies).