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Basionym, in the scientific name of organisms, means the 'original name' on which a new name is based. The term is primarily used in botanical nomenclature. The term original combination is used in the same way in zoology. Bacteriology uses a similar term, basonym, spelled without an i.[1] The word comes from Greek word roots that mean base and name.

Use in botany[edit]

The term "basionym" is used in botany only for the circumstances where a previous name exists with a useful description, and the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants does not require a full description with the new name.[2] A basionym must therefore be legitimate. Basionyms are regulated by the , articles 6.10, 7.3, 41, and others.[3]

combinatio nova

The basionym of the name Picea abies (the Norway Spruce) is Pinus abies. The species was originally named Pinus abies by Linnaeus. Later on, botanist Karsten decided this species should not be grouped in the same genus (Pinus) as the pines, so he transferred it to the genus Picea (the spruces). The new name Picea abies is combinatio nova, a new combination (abbreviated comb. nov.).

status novus

In 1964, the subfamily name Pomoideae that had been in use for the group within family Rosaceae that have pome fruit like apples, was no longer acceptable under the code of nomenclature because it is not based on a genus name. Claude Weber did not consider the family name Malaceae Small to be taxonomically appropriate, so he created the name Maloideae at the rank of subfamily, referring to the original description of the family, and using the same type.[4] This change of rank from family to subfamily is an example of status novus (abbreviated stat. nov.), also called a "name at new rank".


  1. ^ Tindall, B. J. (1999), "Misunderstanding the Bacteriological Code", International Journal of Systematic Bacteriology 49 (3): 1313–1316, doi:10.1099/00207713-49-3-1313, PMID 10425796, retrieved 2008-07-28 
  2. ^ Turland, N. (2013), The Code Decoded: A user's guide to the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, Regnum Vegetabile Volume 155, Koeltz Scientific Books, ISBN 978-3-87429-433-1 
  3. ^ McNeill, J.; Barrie, F.R.; Buck, W.R.; Demoulin, V.; Greuter, W.; Hawksworth, D.L.; Herendeen, P.S.; Knapp, S.; Marhold, K.; Prado, J.; Prud'homme Van Reine, W.F.; Smith, G.F.; Wiersema, J.H.; Turland, N.J. (2012). "Glossary". International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (Melbourne Code) adopted by the Eighteenth International Botanical Congress Melbourne, Australia, July 2011. Regnum Vegetabile 154. A.R.G. Gantner Verlag KG. ISBN 978-3-87429-425-6. 
  4. ^ Weber, C. (1964), "The genus Chaenomeles (Rosaceae)", Journal of the Arnold Arboretum 45: 161–205, 302–345  Page 164, footnote 1