Binomial Nomenclature: History, Rules, Examples, Uses

In the scientific community of biology, the identification of organisms also includes naming them with some unique names which are universally acceptable and are the same everywhere around the world.

Nomenclature is the system that provides certain rules and regulations set by a committee or organization to provide a certain unique identity in terms of name to any organism.

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What is Binomial Nomenclature?

Binomial (Bi refers to two and nomial refers to name) nomenclature is the method of providing an organism a specific identity as two names as Genus and Species. These are names generally adopted from the Latin language.

In the scientific study, the nomenclature is done after identifying and classifying an organism based on its specific characteristics which distinguish it from other organisms.

Binomial Nomenclature
Figure: Binomial Nomenclature.

History of Binomial Nomenclature

  • The pioneer of binomial nomenclature was Casper Bauhin.
  • It was first used or made popular by Swedish botanical taxonomist Carolus Linnaeus in the 1700s. And after that was used many other biologists.
  • That’s why he is also known as the father of taxonomy.
  • One of his popular books based on nomenclature was “Systema Naturae”. 
  • He published scientific names of almost 6000 or more plants and 4000 or more animals. 
  • Among the different editions of publications of Carl Linnaeus, scientific names in the publications of 1753 for plants (Species Plantarum) and 1758 for animals (Tenth edition of Systema Naturae) were considered valid.
  • Binomial Nomenclature was further developed and carried on by different scientists who worked on classification and evolution such as Jean Baptiste de Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel, and others.

How does Binomial Nomenclature Work?

Binomial Nomenclature is formulated under certain rules by different scientists or scientific communities. These names are based on different codes made by different committees such as

  • International Code for Botanical Nomenclature for Plants
  • International Code for Zoological Nomenclatures for Animals
  • International Code for Nomenclature of Bacteria
  • International Code of Virus Classification Nomenclature
  • International Code of Nomenclature of Cultivable plants and others.

The rules or regulations made by these committees are followed universally in the scientific naming of different organisms.

  • Organisms are assigned with a name containing two words. 
  • The first word or generic name is be based on the genus of the organism.
  • The second word or specific epithet is based on the species of the organism.
  • The genus can be similar containing different species of organisms.
  • Species are unique and every organism will have a different species name.
  • For eg. Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax have the same genus name Plasmodium but different species names i.e. falciparum and vivax.

Rules of Binomial Nomenclature

  • The names should contain two words.
  • The names should be derived or adopted from the Latin language.
  • The first letter of the generic name should be capital and the first letter of the species name should be small.
  • A space is kept between two names.
  • The names should be in an italic form in print or soft copy. Eg. Homo sapiens.
  • The names should be underlined separately in case of handwritten notes. Eg. Homo sapiens.
  • Author name can also be included and in that case, the author name’s abbreviation is written after species name with a space. For eg. Magnifera indica Linn. where Linn represents Carolus Linnaeus.
  • If the first name given to any organism follows all the rules of binomial nomenclature then it is considered a valid name and the priority name even if other names are given later. The names given later will only be considered as a synonym. It is called the priority law.

Binomial Nomenclature Examples

The following table includes scientific names of some plants, animals, parasites, etc. as per the rules of binomial nomenclature.

Common NameScientific NameGenusSpecies
FrogRana tigrinaRanatigrina
HumanHomo sapiensHomosapiens
TigerPanthera tigrisPantheratigris
DogCanis familiarisCanisfamiliaris
Pig tapewormTaenia soliumTaeniasolium
RoundwormAscaris lumbricoidesAscarislumbricoides
Beef tapewormTaenia saginataTaenia saginata
RiceOryza sativaOryzasativa
MangoMagnifera indicaMagniferaindica
Soybean Glycine maxGlycinemax
PotatoSolanum tuberosumSolanumtuberosum
Black RatRattus rattusRattusrattus
Cobra snakeNaja najaNaja naja
Malarial parasitePlasmodium vivaxPlasmodiumvivax

Binomial Nomenclature Applications

  1. In biological studies, organisms are assigned with some distinguishable specific scientific names, and bionomical nomenclature is applied for it.
  2. It helps in the systematic scientific studies of different organisms.
  3. Based on specific characteristics, it can be used to provide scientific names to pre-existing or newly discovered organisms.
  4. Some of the scientific names can easily indicate the general identification or characteristics of any organism. Eg. Entamoeba coli where “Entamoeba” indicates it to be enteric amoeba and “coli” indicates its presence in the colon of the intestine.
  5. The common name of organisms may vary around different parts of the world based on their language but the scientific name remains the same which makes it easier for biologists around the world to recognize it.

Binomial Nomenclature Limitations

  1. It includes species name along with genus but nowadays further classification leads to subspecies i.e. three names or trinomial nomenclature that is not included in binomial nomenclature. Eg. Homo sapiens sapiens for humans.
  2. Priority law leads to the limitation of using the first name as a priority if they are valid although the names assigned later may be more suitable. But the later assigned names are just considered synonyms.
  3. The names are mostly unfamiliar to common people.
  4. These names can be harder to remember for every organism as they are long and different.


  1. Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2019, December 23). nomenclature. Encyclopedia Britannica.
  2. International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) and W. D. L. Ride. 1999. International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, 4th edition. London
  3. Smith, James P. Jr, “The Scientific Names of Plants” (2017). Botanical Studies. 28.

About Author

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Bikash Dwivedi

Bikash Kumar Dwivedi completed his undergraduate degree (B.Sc.) in Microbiology from St. Xavier's College, Kathmandu, Nepal. He works in molecular biology and medical microbiology for the betterment of mankind. He is interested in the field of antibiotic resistance, immunology, and disease epidemiology.

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