Biology 4289 - Some Latin Grammar


Although you will not be required to know Latin grammar, a brief introduction to the construction of Linnaean binomials follows. 


1. The name of a species consists of two words:

a. a noun that is also the name of a genus

The noun is capitalized and italicized and has the nominative case


b. an epithet which must agree grammatically with the name of the genus.  It is also italicized, but is not capitalized.

The epithet can be an adjective and must agree in gender and case (nominative) with the genus name.

Candida hawaiiana (feminine)

Kluyveromyces marxianus (masculine)

The epithet can be a noun at the genitive case.  The gender and number are those of the epithet.

Kurtzmaniella cleridarum (feminine genitive plural)

Metschnikowia drosophilae (feminine genitive singular)

2. Declensions!  Latin words vary in their spelling according to gender, number, and case.

a. Gender can be feminine, masculine, or neuter, e.g.,

Rosa is feminine

Homo is masculine

Pisum is neuter

b. Number can be singular or plural, e.g.,

drosophilae (genitive singular)

drosophilarum (genitive plural)

c. The case indicates the role of a word in a sentence.  In naming species, we are only concerned with the nominative (for adjectives) and the genitive (for nouns).

Case Example Grammar Example
Nominative Rosa Subject of the verb A rose has thorns.
Vocative Rosa Calling out Rose, you sure smell nice!
Genitive Rosae Epithet of a noun The petals of a rose may be pink
Dative Rosae Indirect object Add water to a rose
Accusative Rosam Direct object Give a rose to your sweetheart
Ablative Rosa Various objects I was named after a rose