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What Is Meant By Binomial Nomenclature? How Does It work

Referencing Styles : MLA | Pages : 1

Binomial Nomenclature

Binomial Nomenclature is also called as the Binary Nomenclature, binomen and scientific name. “Bi” is a Latin term that means two and “nomial” means relating to terms. The term Binomial Nomenclature refers to a specific system of naming various species of the living beings. The term was first used in the year 1839. It is basically a two-term naming system, where the name given to the species will consist of two parts. In the two term name, the first term is the generic term that refers to the genus where the species belong and the second term states the species itself, which is a specific name. These terms basically use the Latin form of grammar. This process helps in identifying any organisms around the world very easily. For example the human beings are called as the Homo sapiens where Homo refers to the genus and Sapiens refers to the human species. The binomial name for the humans was given by Linnaeus in the year 1758. The term homo means human being and sapiens means sensible and wise.

Before using the modern naming system the scientists used to have a different method of naming where the name was very long consisting of several words. This naming convention was then considered as Polynomial Nomenclature. Poly means many and nomenclature means naming and hence such a name for the naming system was given. These scientific names referred to two different functions – Firstly to refer to the species and secondly to provide a description about the species. These two functions did not however help the scientists to a large extent as more species were discovered over the time and things started to become more complex. The names unnecessarily started to become more long and complex. For example - Plantago foilis ovatolanceolatus pubescentibus. In certain cases some polynomial names can look like binomial names. For example Phalangium ramosum sounds like a binomial naming but if we want to refer to the various kinds of the same, the name will start to grow longer. Thus in order to reduce this complexity the new naming system emerged and the above term Plantago foilis ovatolanceolatus pubescentibus is now called as Plantago media, which is the binomial name for Hoary Plantain.


This procedure of naming is now being governed by several codes and ethics based internationally. The two most important codes among them are International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants (ICNafp) and the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature. The general principles are however somewhat similar apart from the terminology being used and certain specific rules. Scientific names act as specific identifiers and it ensures that the confusion gets reduced while referring to a particular organism. Some of the important rules that must be kept in mind in order to keep these names in a standardized form are –

  1. The two part names that will be given must be written in italics form.
  2. The term that will be written first must refer to the genus.
  3. The name of the genus must be capitalized.
  4. The specific epithet shall never be capitalized.
  5. The authority of binomial naming is only given in case of scientific works.

A binomial name is always needed to be treated in a proper grammatical manner and usually uses Latin phrases, but there are some other sources of derivation as well and they are as follows:

  1. Classical or Medieval Latin - The term Homo sapiens has been derived from Latin word.
  2. Classical Greek – The binomial name of cocoa is Erythroxylum coca, which is derived from the Greek word erythros and xylon, where erythros refers to the color red and xylon refers to wood.
  3. Other languages are also used.
  4. Name of people – Magnolia campbellii that has been derived from the names of renowned botanist Pierre Magnol and Doctor Archibald Campbell.
  5. Name of places and other sources.

The first part of the word must however always be in Latin form. The neuter ending with –ov (-on) in case of Greek words is usually converted to the Latin term by replacing it with “um”. The first name must be unique in case of different kingdoms. The second part of the name is also a Latin word and can have several forms –

  1. It can use an adjective that agrees with the gender of the species. For example the Sacred Bamboo is called as Nandina domestica instead of domesticus. This is because Nandina refers to a female gender.
  2. It can use the form of a noun as well. For example the binomial name of Lion is Panthera Leo.

Its significance in details.

Binomial Nomenclature naming system is very popular and is widely used by most of the scientists and researchers. It is of a great value. This is because of the uniqueness and the stability of the naming system. The naming system, therefore have the following significance -  

  1. As compared to the traditional naming method that is the polynomial nomenclature the binomial naming system is much easier to understand and shorter to remember.
  2. It is governed by several international ethical codes and hence is unique in nature.
  3. The process that is used in case of making the binomial names are more stable in nature. For example in case of transfer of species between genera, the second part of the binomial name is usually kept the same.
  4. A single species can be called by several names. In England, there are about 50 different names for pansy. So the binomial name makes it easier for the researcher and the scientists to recognize the exact species.
  5. These names avoid repetition and are very precise in nature.
  6. The names indicate specific relationships.
  7. The categorizations are very specific and therefore recognizing species becomes easier.    
  8. Binomial nomenclature helps in constructing uniqueness in specific category.
  9. Universality can be created through the application of binomial nomenclature.
  10. Binomial nomenclature helps in building knowledge as names of a particular species can easily be remembered.


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