What is Binomial Nomenclature?
Binomial Nomenclature is a formal system of naming species of living things. So it helps keep all the different species of living things organized. It’s a formal system that’s used throughout the world. Each species is given a two-part name based on Latin grammatical form, though the words can come from other languages. Lots of them have Greek roots as well. Now the first part of the name is the genus to which the species belongs, and the second part is the species within the genus.
For example, humans belong to the genus Homo and the species sapiens, so we would be known as Homo sapiens. Note how it is written as well. The whole name is written in italics. Now, this is in normal text. If you were to have the binomial nomenclature, the formal scientific name of a species, in an italicized sentence or an italicized paragraph, then you would put just this part, just the scientific name, in Roman typeface to set it off from the rest of the sentence or paragraph. But in normal text, you would italicize the whole scientific name, the genus and the species. And it’s written in italics with the first part, the genus, capitalized and the second part, the species, in lowercase. And so you can see an example for any genus and species, the genus will be capitalized, the species will be lowercase, and the whole thing will be in italics unless there’s a situation where the sentence or paragraph is already in italics, and you have to set it off from the rest of the sentence or paragraph.
And this binomial nomenclature, this two-part naming system, was though up by Carol Linnaeus who was a Swedish naturalist, and he formally introduced this system in 1753, and it picked up and it’s been around ever since. Think about how many different animals and plants there are. It would be really hard to keep track of all of them throughout the whole world if there wasn’t some kind of formal naming system. And since they’re based on Latin grammatical form, and a lot of them have Latin roots or Greek roots, the names are going to be the same throughout the world because Latin is a dead language. It’s not going to be evolving or changing, and so it’s always going to be the same.
And so, if you have a common name for a certain creature or plant in your backyard, and someone else has a different common name for it a couple of states over, and someone else has a different name for it in another country, it would be really hard to know that you were all talking about the same plant or animal.
But, with this two-part naming system, using binomial nomenclature, they’re all going to have the same scientific name, and you would be able to say, “Oh, I have that plant in my yard. Oh, you’ve got that over in that country, that’s neat, I didn’t know it was there, too.” And so all over the world, scientists can communicate with each other and let them know which species they’ve found because they are all using the same formal system of naming. This also omits some confusion with creatures that have the same common name. For instance, a swift can be a lizard, a bird, or a fox, but if you look at the scientific name, the binomial nomenclature, the genus and the species, you’ll see a difference. The fox and the bird and the lizard, even though they can all be called a swift as a common name, are not going to have the same genus or species, so it’s going to be very different when you’re looking at the scientific name from looking at the common name.
So binomial nomenclature is this two-part naming system that helps keep everyone organized and on the same page.