Do Common Names Need A "Reliable Source"?

I recently added the common name “Lesser Lawn Leafhopper” to the species Graminella sonora. The name seems to be fairly well established, a Google search for “Lesser Lawn Leafhopper” and “Graminella sonora” both in quotes comes up with 45 results ( A search like this will of course only show a fraction of the instances of this name being used, so there are clearly more uses of this name on the internet (and presumably more in literature), but this is more sources than appear for most common names, so I added it.

Shortly after I did this, the name was deleted and a curator contacted me saying that it was deleted because it wasn’t a real name. I provided them with the above link and some of the individual sources, and was told that those uses don’t matter because none of those 45 sources are reliable and no authority had accepted the name.

But aren’t common names just that - common names? There isn’t any need for an authority to accept them, right? Aren’t 45 sources collectively reliable to show a name is in use, more than any one source could ever be? Basically, is some sort of reliable source required for a name to be added on iNaturalist, or does a name simply need to be in use?


This common name is listed by entsoc, and I am not sure why that would be considered an unreliable source.


It seems there is a wide range of opinion about what source(s) and how many occurrences of a common name are needed for it to be deemed “reliable.” Plus there’s likely opposition by some individuals to recognizing common names at all for some groups of organisms. Personally, I think it’s fine to have one or more common names for any organism if there’s evidence of some use outside of iNat. As you say, they’re just common names and don’t require an “authority” to approve them.


Your evidence is good enough for me to add that as a common name. Common names are just whatever is in usage and don’t need to be approved by any official body (though some groups have taken it on themselves to make lists of standardized common names which can be useful).

If there’s no conflict with an existing common name though, I think it should be fine to add this. I’m not sure what to do, maybe tag another curator of a similar group in a comment to chime in.

There are definitely scientific sources that use this name as well, including:

This should be pretty straightforward and not sure why this name would be a problem.


There are several recent threads that discuss common names on iNat that have relevant thoughts/discussion as well.


If I click on the link provided, near the top of the page it says “About 45 results”.
By my count there are not even half that many, and some of these do not even mention “Lesser Lawn Leafhopper”. Some of these appear to have used others as there source of information. I don’t think that even 45 search results are enough to say that it is generally accepted.
The most reliable information on the internet is the time and the date.


If the name was in conflict with the name of another taxa, I could understand it, but I could find no evidence of that and neither did said curator mention anything like that.

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“Some of these appear to have used others as there source of information”

Of course - all common names start somewhere, it isn’t like 45 people just all made up the name of their own accord.


Yeah, that one is literally accepted by “the authority”, EntSoc, so should definitely be acceptable.

The only issue I’ve had when deleting some common names are when they are very generic or misleading. For example- I think a common name for Brochymena sulcata of “tree stink bug” was entered. I have heard that name used, but at a generic level. There are 17 species of Brochymena in the US alone and that name could be used for most. Actually, since it’s more of a desert species and is also one I frequently encounter in shrubs, etc. I think it’s not only a non-specific name, but somewhat inaccurate.

Although on the other hand- Entsoc lists “Rough Stink Bug” as an official common name for Brochymena quadripustulata, which has the same issue of being generic and could be used for any other Brochymena species as well.


yes they are.

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This is a standard applicable to Scientific names, but totally inappropriate for common names. Most taxa - especially in the insects - don’t even have such an ‘authority’ to accept a common name. Your research establishes that the name is in use, and refers to the particular species in question. That should definitely be enough. Even if there was an authority determining their preferred ‘common’ names, and they had a different name, that would not invalidate this name.


This comment from staff says that this name should definitely be acceptable:
It specifically references names from Entsoc…hard to get more definitive than that.

I went ahead and added the common name along with a reference to EntSoc, scientific publications, and the forum post referenced above.


I think it depens on the language. Some languages have the common names standardised and for these languages I should only add names from reliable sources. In the futue Wikidata might be such a platform.

It defenitely is a reliable source and name can’t be deleted for such reasons with no base, that wasn’t a good move!

In the futue Wikidata might be such a platform.

Hopefully not. Wikidata is even less reliable than Wikipedia. Many statements are unreferenced (even if likely to be true), and one could use “iNaturalist observation 0956755” or even this very forum thread as a reference, creating circular or poorly verified “common names” that are anything but common. I could call a species “Sam’s stinky red stink bug” on my blog (regardless of whether it already has several widely used vernacular names), and poof, a common name has been verifiably created, even if I’m the only one in the world who uses the name.


I don’t think a common name needs to be accepted by a “reliable” source (not sure what that means) in order for it to be added to iNat, and the name in question here seems to be in enough literature that it would be familiar to people. I also think a Google Search and hit count isn’t the most persuasive link - I’d link directly to pages and PDFs like the EntSoc one.


The common name seems fine to use. It’s also used on Discover Life, which is considered an authoritative source at least for bees. As for the broader question of sources, I thought it had been concluded in another similar topic that coining common names usually occurs in a scientific organization context. It actually does seem to make most sense to consider some sources more authoritative than others (like ITIS vs. Wikipedia), even for common names because official standards are still used. Although, further discussion over which sources to consider authoritative could be useful. Also, it seems best to settle on using only one name per species (multiple would be too confusing), and to use official ones because that way multiple taxonomic databases all are in sync. But, if anyone wanted to change common names from those that naming-orgs use they could also try submitting feedback directly to those naming orgs. It would be best to try to directly engage with the naming process upstream in that way vs. downstream on iNat. An interesting example I recently saw was two orgs named hundreds of the same unnamed US/Canada bees completely separately from each other, which means iNat has a choice between two official sources if adding those bee names.

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