Taxonomy name types

There are several different types of names associated with taxonomy.  This page describes each of these in detail.

Scientific Name

Every node in the taxonomy tree is required to have exactly one scientific name. Wherever possible, this is a validly published name with respect to the relevant code of nomenclature. Formal names that are subject to a code of nomenclature and are associated with a validly published description of the taxon will be Latinized uninomials above the level (e.g. Poa sp.), binomials (e.g. Homo sapiens) at the species level, and trinomials for the formally described infraspecific categories (e.g. Homo sapiens neanderthalensis). Informal scientific names are used for taxa where it is not possible to find an appropriate formal scientific name.


The synonym name type is used for both real synonyms in the formal nomenclatural sense and more loosely to include orthographic variants and a host of names that have found their way into the taxonomy database over the years.

Preferred Synonym

In cases where multiple synonyms exist, but it is only possible to display a single one, one of the synonyms is designated as the preferred synonym for display purposes. This is also known as the GenBank synonym.


The acronym name type is used primarily for the viruses. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) maintains an official list of acronyms for viral species, but it is also convenient to list the common variants from the scientific literature. For example, HIV, LAV-1, HIV1, and HIV-1 are acronyms for the human immunodeficiency virus type 1.

Preferred Acronym

In cases where multiple acronyms exist, but it is only possible to display a single one, one of the acronyms is designated as the preferred acronym for display purposes. This is also known as the GenBank acronym.


The anamorph name type is used for names applied to asexual forms of fungi. Many fungi are known to undergo both sexual and asexual reproduction at different points in their life cycle (so-called “perfect” fungi); for many others, however, only the asexually reproducing (anamorphic or mitosporic) form is known. A number of named anamorphic species have subsequently been found to be associated with sexual forms (teleomorphs) with a different name (e.g. Aspergillus nidulans is the name given to the asexual stage of the teleomorphic species Emericella nidulans).


The teleomorph name type is used for names applied to sexual forms of fungi. Although the use of either the anamorph or teleomorph name is formally correct under the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature, precedence is given to the telemorphic name over the anamorphic name as the scientific name in the Taxonomy database to emphasize their commonality and to avoid having more than one taxon for the same organism.


The misnomer is a rarely used name type. Misnomers are common mispellings, which are included in the taxonomy database.

Common Name

The common name is used for vernacular names associated with a particular taxon and can be found at any level of the taxonomy (e.g. human, reptiles). Common names are typically in lowercase letters. Their use is inherently variable, regional and inconsistent. There are no authoritative regulatory body for the use of common names, and there is often no perfect correspondence between common names and scientific names.

Preferred Common Name

The preferred common name is used to designate the default common name in cases where there is more than one common name associated with a particular node in the taxonomy. This is also known as the GenBank common name.


The in-part name type is used for retrieval terms that have a broader range of application than the taxon or taxa at which they appear. For example, reptiles are listed as in-part name types for Testudines (the turtles), Lepidosauria (the lizards and snakes), and Crocodylidae (the crocodilians).


The includes name type is the opposite of the in-part name type and is included for retrieval terms that have a narrower scope of application than the taxon at which they appear. For example, reptiles could be listed as includes name type for the Amniota (or at any higher node in the lineage).

Equivalent Name

The equivalent name name type is used for names, which do not fit into any of the other existing name types.

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