The secrets of "Nym"

Richard Pyle deepreef at BISHOPMUSEUM.ORG
Mon Jul 8 22:44:31 CDT 2002

No....not the "Ms. Frisby" story (with her rat friends from NIMH)....

After all that Basionym/Protologue discussion, I finally spent some long and
deep thought on the issue, and decided that neither word really suits my
needs just right (i.e., a pointer to the first legitimate use of a taxonomic
name -- at any rank -- specifically in the context of the publication
wherein it became available).  Basionym comes close, but I get the sense
that Basionym explicitly includes the original genus of a binomial; and I'm
looking for a word that more directly refers to the terminal epithet only.
Also, I think Basionym (or Basonym) is used mostly in the context of names
at ranks that are governed by Codes, and I need something to apply to all
ranks -- all the way up to Kingdom (and Domain?). In short, although I think
I could comfortably tweak the meaning of Basionym to suit my needs, I fear
that the word comes with too much "baggage" in the way that it has (and has
not) been used by taxonomists over the years.

Just for the helluvit, I did a web search for "Protonym" and came up with
this URL, which I thought might be of some interest to Code Warriors and
lesser nomenclaturists alike:

Note, incidentally, the meaning of "Protonym"...which comes pretty damn
close to the word I'm looking for. But then again, it's definition of
"Basonym" seems to match my needs better than I originally thought:

"The earliest validly published name of a taxon, being in the case of a
binomial or trinomial the source of the valid specific or subspecific
epithet when the taxon is transferred to a new combination and in technical
usage always accompanied by the name of the original author."

Also, I wonder if "Anthroponym" might be a more appropriate term than
"Patronym", when used to reference taxon names that honor a person or

There are a number of others in the list that are specifically for taxonomic
use, some of which I'd not previously heard of, but would find useful from
time to time (e.g., "Chironym").

Anyway....not looking for a response....just thought others might enjoy the


Richard L. Pyle
Ichthyology, Bishop Museum
1525 Bernice St., Honolulu, HI 96817
Ph: (808)848-4115, Fax: (808)847-8252
email: deepreef at
"The opinions expressed are those of the sender, and not necessarily those
of Bishop Museum."

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