Forming epithets honouring persons

Epithets are names used at the species, subspecies, varietal and forma levels.

If they are adjectives they are declinable; if they are nouns in apposition they are not declinable. Epithets honouring persons can be adjectival and declinable (e.g. agardianus, agardhiana, agardhianum; i.e. masculine, feminine and neuter, and agreeing with the gender of the genus name).

Generally, however, epithets honouring people are proposed as nouns in the genitive case (singular or plural) and do not change with the gender of the genus name (e.g., agardhii, agardhiorum, abbottiae, abbotiorum or abbotiarum). Errors in the formation of epithets are correctable under the current ICN rules (Art. 60).

The key below is intended to help authors to form epithets correctly.

1a. Epithet is an adjective:

  • 2a. Personal name ends in a consonant:
  • 3a. Gender of generic name is masculine: add -ianus
  • 3b. Gender of generic name is feminine: add -iana
  • 3c. Gender of generic name is neuter: add -ianum
  • 2b. Personal name ends in a vowel:
  • 4a. Personal name ends in -a:
  • 5a. Gender of generic name is masculine: add -nus
  • 5b. Gender of generic name is feminine: add -na
  • 5c. Gender of generic name is neuter: add -num
  • 4b. Personal name ends in -e, -i, -o, -u, or -y:
  • 6a. Gender of generic name is masculine: add -anus
  • 6b. Gender of generic name is feminine: add -ana
  • 6c. Gender of generic name is neuter: add -anum
  • 1b. Epithet is a noun in the genitive case:

  • 7a. Personal name ends in a consonant (but not -er):
  • 8a. One person is being honoured:
  • 9a. Person is male: add -ii
  • 9b. Person is female: add -iae
  • 8b. Two or more people are being honoured:
  • 10a. At least one person is male: add -iorum
  • 10b. All people are female: add -iarum
  • 7b. Personal name ends in a vowel or -er:
  • 11a. Personal name ends in -a:
  • 12a. One person is being honoured (male or female): add -e
  • 12b. Two or more people are being honoured (male or female): add -rum
  • 11b. Personal name ends in -e, -er, -i, -o, -u, or -y:
  • 13a. One person is being honoured:
  • 14a. Person is male: add -i
  • 14b. Person is female: add -ae
  • 13b. Two or more people are being honoured:
  • 15a. At least one person is male: add -orum
  • 15b. All people are female: add -arum
  • Modified from "The Code Decoded" by N. Turland. Image: Botanists at work. From Drawings of the Rembrandt School, Vol. 3, Werner Sumowski by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout.