Zool 250 - Latin & Greek Roots Index


Many technical terms, names of biological structures, and names of taxa, are formed from Greek and Latin roots. If you are familiar with these roots, you can 'translate' the technical terms into English.

One particularly useful example is the names of taxa. The formal taxonomic names for many animal groups (from phylum down to species) are often formed from roots that refer to distinctive features of the animals. When used in pairs, such as in the familiar Latin binomials for genus and species, both the genus and species names are often descriptive.


  • Echinodermata, a phylum name that means 'spiny-' (echino-) 'skin' (derm), or the 'spiny skinned' animals

  • Arthropoda, a phylum name that means 'joint-' (arthro-) 'foot' (pod), or the 'jointed-foot' animals

  • Archaeopteyx, a genus name that means 'ancient-' (archae-) 'wing' (pter), or the 'ancient-winged' animals

  • Amphioxus, a common name that means 'double-' (amphi-) 'pointed' (oxus), or the 'double-pointed' animals (originally it was a genus name for the lancelets, which are pointed on both ends)

  • Homo erectus a genus & species combination that means 'man' (homo) 'upright' (erectus), or 'upright man'

Use the index below to help locate Greek and Latin roots and their translation into English.

| A-C | D-F | G-K | L-N | O-R | S-Z |*

* The entries in these lists are reproduced from Bailey, B. 1999. Bull. Malacol. Soc. Lond. 32:6-7

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(revised Jan. 8, 2006)