List of sources for common names - wiki

One of my self-assigned curatorial duties is hunting down common names for taxa on iNaturalist. Per the policies specified on the Curator Guide, I do not create common names. However, overtime I have done a very poor job at retaining the sources where I get these common names. When other curators and users come across a name that they haven’t encountered before and cannot relocate easily, they often assumed I made it myself, misapplied it, etc. This is not the case, but it is my own fault for not keeping track of where the names came from. In attempt to retrace approximately three years of contributions to the site, I have compiled the following list of references I have regularly used for common names. It may serve as a helpful reference for those who are trying to locate common names for taxa they are focusing on, as well as serve as a reference sheet in the event that one is challenged on the validity of the name they applied.

References are listed alphabetically by the surname of their lead author. Hyperlinks lead to previews of the texts or directly to the specified site, depending on the type of source it is. The language of the common names provided are at the end of the references in brackets. If none are specified, then a wide assortment of languages are supported. If one feels that there is a better way to intuitively present this information, let me know! If there are sources you use that aren’t included in this list, feel free to add them.

Eukaryotic Life (Eukaryota) :dna:

  • IUCN. (2020). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2019-3. [English, French, Spanish]

  • Vrandečić D and Krötzsch M. (2014). Wikidata: a free collaborative knowledgebase . Communications of the ACM , 57(10). 1

    • Note : Wikidata is a collaborative depository of information, not an authority on that information. The scope of Wikidata means not all facetes are moderated well. Not all names on Wikidata are attributed to external resources and there have been issues with Wikidata contributors fabricating or pushing names that people do not actually use. It is a helpful tool, especially for non-English vernaculars, but one is discouraged from adopting names listed there blindly.

Plants (Plantae) :deciduous_tree: :ear_of_rice: :evergreen_tree: :herb:

Animals (Animalia) :shrimp: :snail: :shell: :squid:

Arthropods (Athropoda) :beetle: :bug: :spider: :scorpion:

  • Bartlett T and VanDyk J (eds). (2020). BugGuide.Net. Iowa State University, Department of Entomology. [English]

    • Note: BugGuide is a well-curated and moderated resource, but iNat curators have mistaken a BugGuide user’s description of an insect they photographed on BugGuide as a credible common name (such as here with Acanthocephala terminalis described as “Leaf-footed Bug”) when it is not. This is part of the description provided by the user which is often either erroneous or a name that applies to an entire family of insects. Names internally recognized by BugGuide are accessed on the title of a species taxon page, presented as “Species [Scientific name] - [English Common Name]”. If additional names are recognized, they are sorted under the “Other Common Names” subsection under the “Info” tab. For an example of how this is displayed, see Diabrotica undecimpunctata. Not all invertebrates have common names and not all species on BugGuide have common names, but this does not mean that they do not exist elsewhere. BugGuide is not an authority on what species have vernacular names.

  • Brock PD, Büscher T and Baker E. (2019). Phasmida Species File Online. Version 5.0/5.0. [English]

  • ESA Governing Board. (2020). Common Names of Insects Database. Entomological Society of America. Version 2/4/2020. [English]

  • Hogue CL. (1993). Latin American Insects and Entomology. UC Press: Berkeley. ISBN 0520078497. Print. [English, Portuguese, Spanish]

  • Otte D, Spearman L and Stiewe MBD. (2019). Mantodea Species File Online. Version 5.0/5.0. [English]

  • Picker M. (2012). Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. 3rd ed. Penguin Random House South Africa. ISBN 1920572252. [English]

  • Skevington JH, Locke MM, Young AD, Moran K, Crins WJ and Marshall SA. (2019). Field Guide to the Flower Flies of Northeastern North America. Princeton Field Guides. Princeton University Press: New Jersey. ISBN: 9780691189406. Print. [English]

  • Whyte R and Anderson G. (2017). A Field Guide to Spiders of Australia. 1st ed. CSIRO Publishing: Clayton. ISBN 9780643107076. Print. DOI Online. [English]

Fish (Actinopterygii / Cephalaspidomorphi / Elasmobranchii / Holocephali / Myxini / Sarcopterygii) :tropical_fish: :fish: :blowfish: :shark:

Amphibians and Reptiles (Amphibia / Reptilia) :frog: :crocodile: :snake: :lizard:

Mammals (Mammalia) :sloth: :mouse2: :bat: :leopard:

Disclaimers :warning:

  1. The list will be subject to updates. Not every reference I have ever used is represented here yet, but presently encompasses a fairly large portion of them. Some names I have integrated come from very old or obscure field guides, and consequently are hard to relocate. The list as is a a great place to start, and if you know of any other references - especially ones that encompass obscure taxa or

  2. There are caveats with a number of these sources, either with how they should be navigated or with how their names themselves, so be considerate when using them. ( for example, see the entries for Wikidata or BugGuide above.)

  3. This list is taxonomically biased towards arthropods, fish, reptiles, amphibians, marine invertebrates, and plants. This is because many of these taxa have legitimately established common names that are not integrated into iNaturalist. Additionally, there is a focus on non-North American taxa. This is because most North American species have their common names already integrated into iNaturalist.


I am involved with the Committee for the Common Names of Arachnids. We are currently working on a new edition. I’ll get it to you as soon it’s finished.



welcome to the forum!

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The Wikidata page for any taxa has a section for taxon common name which can have a reference filled in. If done so, and it is not just a self referencing back to another Wiki site such as Wikispecies, it can be a good source of sources. Especially outside of English.

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Absolutely! Wikidata was included above for those reasons. It not only includes names, but often the sources for those names (unlike, Wikipedia, which only sometimes have sources for the names it mentions in its articles…).

But Wikidata isn’t always complete, especially for more obscure taxa like invertebrates, fish, and some plants.

Welcome to the Forum! I really look forward to seeing the product of your work.

It’s also not very well moderated, so should only be used as a stepping stone rather than as a direct source.

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That’s why I indicated its best use is as a source of sources.

Yep, I was responding to Bobby and the list of sources in the main post.

Yes, I mentioned above the list that their are caveats to some of these resources. I did not have additional time to elaborate on what I meant, and instead just used BugGuide as an example for one of them. I should probably specify for each individual resource.

But in the meantime, I will add this note above.

For Wikidata, not all names are cited to any external resources and there have been issues with Wikidata contributors fabricating or pushing names that people do not actually use. I still think it is a helpful tool, but one is discouraged from adopting names listed there blindly.

Does that sound right?

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As a Danish speaker and former resident, I would recommend which is effectively the Danish national biodiversity database over the resource you listed.

I’m not aware of any fabricated names first appearing on Wikidata (but I don’t pay much attention to non-English common names there). However, the common names (in all languages) that Wikidata has sourced from Wikispecies are pretty dubious.

Wikispecies common names were heavily edited by somebody with strong prescriptivist views; i.e. there’s only one correct English common name (which is the name promulgated by the Botanical Society of the British Isles for plants that occur there), all names should be capitalized, and names should be phylogenetically “correct” (no starfish, water lilies or prairie dogs). This person isn’t especially active on Wikidata itself, but has made some edits pushing their views there. They have replaced names from other sources (e.g. USDA PLANTS) with BSBI names without changing the cited source, and have changed capitalizations to suit their preferences even when the source follows a different capitalization scheme.

Overall, their impact on common names on Wikidata is pretty small, but it would be a good idea to ignore any Wikidata names sourced to Wikispecies, and to double check that a name on Wikidata with any other source accurately reflects that source.


One issue on Wikidata is that it is not case sensitive. So Sugar Maple and Sugar maple are and will be 2 separate entries. Putting aside which you believe is correct. There are a lot of English language duplicates right now with this issue due to a species list from Belgium that also contained English (as well as Dutch and French) names being bulk loaded.

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I reorganized the list by “roughly” taxonomic groupings. I feel like it makes the list easier to navigate and more visually intuitive.

Can I suggest adding a section on language specific sources. There are many national biodiversity databases etc that can be listed that are not taxa specific (only have mobile phone access now - dont think it is a wiki is it?)


I’ll definitely look into it! I agree that it would be a helpful distinction, though it’ll have to be later tonight, when I have more time available. Are there any non-English sources you know of or would recommend? I know of just a few (not all of which are reflected on this list yet - I’m still in the midst of hunting out old references I have used).









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Plants in Hebrew

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Consider using Jepson for common names of California plants, 2nd choice, Calflora, as not all have one in Jepson.

Names are always a problem. The names people I know in my area for California plants are often not the ones I picked by inaturalist, so go figure.

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Off topic question but does a direct translation of the scientific name to English considered “made-up”?