[Taxacom] Latin equivalent for "gene"

Richard Zander Richard.Zander at mobot.org
Fri Mar 28 10:44:43 CDT 2008

Taxacomers: I forward this query from Patricia Eckel for your


Dear membership on Taxacom:


Would anyone care to venture a Latin word for "gene" to be used in
descriptions and diagnoses of new taxa? I have scanned various web sites
in regard to this question and have come up with the following


"gene 1911, from Ger. Gen, coined 1905 by Dan. scientist Wilhelm Ludvig
Johannsen (1857-1927), from Gk. genea "generation, race." De Vries had
earlier called them pangenes [Online Etymological Dictionary]


[> Gk. gene a, as; genee, es [he] birth, race, descent; breed;
generation = L. saeculum; offspring, descendants].  


Gene: "( > Gk. genos, race, offspring) Johannsen's term for
unit-factors; allelomorphs.  Geneagenesis (genea, stock, race; genesis,
beginning) = Parthenogenesis" (Jackson).


genea,-ae      gen-, or geno- comb. form: Gk. -genes, born:   gen- or
geno- comb. form 'gene' (genoid, genocline)  allelomorpha,-ae (s.f.I)

chromosoma,-atis  genea-logy; genea-logical


In "Res Novae" by Salvete Amici on line there is the following: 

  "gene: gen (indeclinable): L. genum (Helfer).


The following notes for comment:


1. go with Salvete Amici's reference from Helfer for a neuter Latin word
of the second declension:

   gene = genum,-i (s.n.II), abl. sg. geno, nom. & acc. pl. gena, dat. &
abl. pl. genis.


I have no idea who "Helfer" is but there is the suggestion that here is
a source for the justification as "usage" on which to base this noun.
The fact that it is listed as a neuter seems to parallel the standard
way Latin absorbs "barbaric" or non-Latin or non-Greek nouns by
designating them as indeclinable and also neuter (many epithets from
native languages have this characteristic). "Genum" gives the word a
gender and a declension to which to assign it so it can be credibly
fitted into Botanical Latin prose.


2. "genea,-ae" should not be used as this is already a good Latin and
modern Latin word and no one seems to use it as a word equivalent for


3. One option is to treat the word like "thece" or "theca", both first
declension feminine nouns, but the first, "thece", would have the wierd
declension that must be used when declining a word, such as the genus
name Pleurochaete (gen. sg. Pleurochaetes).


4. other possibilities? there seems to be the stem "gen-" to fiddle with
and a connection with the Greek verb gignesthai.


I personally like the first suggestion. Since I translate and edit
Botanical Latin for a variety of people, I would like to standardize or
justify at least my own translation of the word "gene."


Thank you for your patience,


P. M. Eckel



Patricia M. Eckel

Missouri Botanical Garden

patricia.eckel at mobot.org 



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