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A tautonym is a scientific name of a species in which both parts of the name have the same spelling, for example Bison bison. The first part of the name is the name of the genus and the second part is referred to as the specific epithet in the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants and the specific name in the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature.
Tautonymy (i.e., the usage of tautonymous names) is permissible in zoological nomenclature (see List of tautonyms for examples). In past editions of the zoological Code the term tautonym was used, but it has now been replaced by the more inclusive "tautonymous names"; these include trinomial names such as Gorilla gorilla gorilla.
In the current rules for botanical nomenclature (which apply retroactively), tautonyms are explicitly prohibited. One example of a botanical tautonym is 'Larix larix'. The earliest name for the European larch is Pinus larix L. (1753) but Gustav Karl Wilhelm Hermann Karsten did not agree with the placement of the species in Pinus and decided to move it to Larix in 1880. His proposed name created a tautonym. Under rules first established in 1906, which are applied retroactively, 'Larix larix' does not and cannot exist (as a formal name). In such a case either the next earliest validly published name must be found, in this case Larix decidua Mill. (1768), or (in its absence) a new epithet must be published.
However, it is allowed for both parts of the name of a species to mean the same, without being identical in spelling. For instance, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi means bearberry twice, in Greek and Latin respectively; Picea omorica uses the Latin and Serbian terms for a pine. There are also instances of an almost repeat of the genus name, with a slight modification, such as Lycopersicon lycopersicum (Greek and Latinized Greek, a rejected name for the tomato). Differences as small as a single letter are permissible, as in the name Ziziphus zizyphus.
In general English, a tautonym is sometimes considered to be any word or term made from two identical parts or syllables, such as bonbon or dada. The origin of this usage is uncertain, but it has been suggested that it is of relatively recent derivation. The general term in linguistics for such double words is reduplicants.
- List of tautonyms
- Binomial nomenclature
- Botanical nomenclature
- List of tautological place names
- "Article 23". International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code). International Association for Plant Taxonomy. 2012. Retrieved 28 January 2013.