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Nomenclature – Definition, Rules, Importance and Drawbacks

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Nomenclature, in biological classification, is a system of naming organisms. The species to which the organism belongs is indicated by two words, the genus and species names, which are Latinized words derived from various sources. This system, which is called the Linnaea system of binomial nomenclature, was established in the 1750s by Carolus Linnaeus. Subsequent to the work of Linnaeus, a proliferation of binomial names took place as new species were established and higher taxonomic categories were formed, with the result that by the late 19th century there was much confusion in the nomenclature of many groups of organisms. In the 20th century, the establishment of rules by international committees in the fields of zoology, botany, bacteriology, and virology has done much to clarify the situation.



The system of binomial nomenclature was introduced by Carl Linnaeus. Multiple local names make it extremely difficult to identify an organism globally and keep a track of the number of species. Thus, it creates a lot of confusion. To get rid of this confusion, a standard protocol came up. According to it, each and every organism would have one scientific name which would be used by everyone to identify an organism. This process of standardized naming is called Binomial Nomenclature.

Binomial Nomenclature

  • All living species including plants, animals, birds, and also some microbes have their own scientific names. For eg.,
  • The scientific name of the tiger is presented as Panthera tigris. ‘Panthera’ represents the genus and ‘Tigris’ represents a particular species or specific epithet.
  • The scientific name of humans is presented as Homo sapiens. ‘Homo’ represents the genus and ‘sapiens’ represents a particular species.
  • The Indian bullfrog is scientifically written as Rana tigrina. ‘Rana’ is the name of the genus and ‘tigrina’ is the name of the specific species.

Rules of Binomial Nomenclature

A Biologist from all over the world follows a uniform set of principles for naming organisms. There are two international codes that are agreed upon by all the biologists over the entire world for the naming protocol. They are:

  • The International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN) – Deals with the biological nomenclature for plants.
  • The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) – Deals with the biological nomenclature of animals.
  • These codes make sure that each organism gets a specific name and that name is globally identified.
  • The naming follows certain conventions. Each scientific name has two parts
    • Generic name
    • Specific epithet
  • The rest of the binomial nomenclature rules for writing the scientific names of organisms include the following:
  • All the scientific names of organisms are usually Latin. Hence, they are written in italics.
  • There exist two parts to a name. The first word identifies the genus and the second word identifies the species.
  • When the names are handwritten, they are underlined or italicized if typed. This is done to specify its Latin origin.
  • The name of the genus starts with a capital letter and the name of the species starts with a small letter.

Why is Binomial Nomenclature Important?

As stated previously, there are millions of species of organisms distributed throughout the world. Furthermore, the same organisms are known by different names around the world and this can cause confusion when trying to identify or classify them. Hence, binomial nomenclature was seen as a viable solution to this problem.

Drawbacks of Binomial Nomenclature

Some of the basic drawbacks of binomial nomenclature are

  • If two or more names are currently in use, according to the law of priority, the correct name will be the one used first and the others end up being synonyms as validity is the senior synonym. Providing stability in the naming and classification of organisms must be emphasized.
  • Also, the names used prior to those included in the “Systema Naturae”, by Linnaeus are not recognized.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question 1: What is biological classification?


The system of arrangement of different plants and animals in different groups on the basis of their similarities and differences is called biological classification.

Question 2: Who was the first to classify animals according to their habitats?


Aristotle was the first one to classify animals according to whether they lived on land, in water, or in air.

Question 3: What is ‘binomial nomenclature’?


It is the system of naming in which the scientific name of an organism has two components, i.e., genus and species.

Question 4: What is evolution?


The life forms that exist today have risen because of changes in their body design over a course of time to adapt themselves in the changing conditions. This is called evolution.

Question 5: What are the three aspects of systematics?


Identification, nomenclature, and classification.

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Last Updated : 24 Nov, 2022
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