[Taxacom] endings in -fer and -ger

Christine Barker C.Barker at kew.org
Tue Mar 4 10:28:33 CST 2008

Epithets ending in -ferus and -gerus should mostly, if not all, be corrected to end with -fer and -ger.  The former endings are cases of "an improper Latin termination" (Art. 32.7) and are correctable orthographical errors (Art. 60.1), whatever the category of the name.

I have reservations about saying all should be corrected, as the meaning of each epithet ending in -ferus needs to be determined to ensure that it alludes to 'bearing' something and is not anything to do with being wild.  Ferus, fera, ferum, 'wild' is a more typical second declension adjective.  Whether this might appear in a compound remains to be seen.

The compound second declension adjectives/participles in question belong to an often forgotten group that don't have the more typical second declension endings -us masculine endings.  I think that the -ferus and -gerus usage has arisen through simple oversight by the author.

Dan Nicolson writes a very informative account of epithets and endings in Taxon 35(2): 323-328 (1986)


Botanical Latin by Stearn is, as ever, helpful too.  See ed. 3: 93 (1983)

At Latin classes in Kew one of our past tutors was absolutely delighted when we fell into this classic trap on the premiss that we wouldn't make the same mistake twice.  If only!

Christine Barker

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