Scientific Name Meanings

Can anyone recommend an online resource they use that gives the meaning of Latin etc scientific names?
I find is sometimes useful and sometimes useless.


I like


This one is fantastic, covers almost everything you could think of



For Greek I really like this book

Would be great if you could somehow tag from a set list on observations

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Vynbos, do you still have the Peninsular species meanings list I gave you a thousand years ago? I’m pretty sure I remember you saying you were updating it as you went along?

I have just got myself Pinhey’s Emperor moths (too excited for words!!) which has a list of the name meanings for the southern African saturniids and was intending to add it to iNat somewhere, soon.

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some of the plant keys i use sometimes tell you how the genus and species names came about. in my area, BRIT (the Botanical Research Institute of Texas) has some guides (the Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas and the Illustrated Flora of East Texas) that are particularly good about providing this kind of information (see so even if you’re not in the area, if you have a plant whose range also extends in to North, Central, or East Texas, these may be able to help you understand where their scientific names came from.

the Plant Finder from Missouri Botanical Gardens does a good job, too:

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I have used that book forever. Thanks for pointing out it is online!

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I was going to make the same recommendation. My AP biology teacher gave everyone in out class a copy of this book as a end of the year gift. I’ve since lost my original :( but I’d like to acquire another copy at some point. It appears to be out of print.

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I’ve been trying to find the meaning of ‘cneorum’ for one of our South African plants ‘Penaea cneorum’.

Not in arboretum_amy’s

thebeachcomber ‘s give me Cneo = scratch but that might have nothing to do with it.

Shaun’s Dave’s Garden has given me “Greek name for a Daphne” with the phonetic pronunciation suh-NOR-um. That is the plant I assume: which itself may be named after the nymph:

I’m too clueless about the Greek alphabet to use russ87’s

Unfortunately it isn’t a Cape Peninsuala sp so not in Karoopixie’s resource (I’m not sure if it is available online but if you message one of us we could email it to you.).

Couldn’t find where on the site to find a word meaning, but on pisum’s other suggestion I found a meaning via Convolvulus cneorum which was “resembling an olive” and also a spoken pronunciation. Nice. (different to suh-NOR-um, but then ppl never seem to agree with how to pronounce these words)

So I’m not sure if we have a definitive answer to the meaning of ‘cneorum’ yet, but I now have a lot of great new resources to play with. So thanks everyone for the great suggestions.


from what i can gather, cneorum refers to a small bushy olive-like plant that was possibly Daphne cneorum. Penaea cneorum vaguely resembles Daphne cneorum from a distance. so i think that’s it.

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For plants, I’ve had some luck with this Dictionary of Botanical Epithets:

For etymology of plant genus names I usually check Gray’s Manual (7th Ed.):

1 Like[David_Gledhill]_The_Names_of_Plants(


If the plant is already listed at PZA (for South African plants) they have a paragraph for the derivation of name and history.

For example

If you have specific questions about a certain name, you can ask me. I usually know what the Latin/Greek roots are involved.

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