Derivation of Some Scientific Names

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abies The ancient Latin name for the European fir.
acacia From the Greek akakia, the Egyptian thorn-tree; akis, a thorn.
acer From the Celtic ac, hard; a quality of maple wood.
aesculus The ancient name for some European nut-bearing tree.
alba From the Latin alba, white.
albicaulis From the Latin alba, white, and caulis, stem (i.e., white-bark).
alnus From the old Latin name for the alder.
alternifolia Referring to the alternate leaves (Greek phullon, leaf) of Cornus alternifolia
altissima From the Latin altus, high, referring to height.
amabilis From the Latin amare to love, or lovely.
aristata From the Latin arista, bristle or thorn.
aucuparia From the Latin aucupari, to catch birds. In Europe, mountain ash fruits were used as bait in catching birds.
avium From the Latin avis, bird.

banksiana From the surname Banks.
betula The common Latin name of the birch; from the sanskrit bhurja, to shine, referring to the bark of the birch.
bicolor From the Latin, meaning two-colored, in reference to the leaves of swamp white oak which are green above and pale below.
borealis From Boreas, the Greek god of the north wind.

carpinus The Latin common name for the European hornbeam.
carya From the Greek karua, the name applied to the walnut tree.
castanea From the Greek kastanea, or chestnut.
castanopsis Meaning chestnut-like.
catalpa From the Cherokee Indian name catawba, applied to this tree.
celtis The name which Pliny gave to the African lotus, and later applied to the hackberry genus because of the sweet fruit of the European hackberry.
cembroides Cembra-like (resembles Pinus cembra of Europe).
chamaecyparis From the Greek chamai, on the ground, and kyparissos, the cypress, meaning low-growing.
chrysophylla From the Greek chrysos, golden, and phyllon, leaf.
cinerea From the Latin cineris, dust, or ashes, in reference to the pale gray color of the bark of butternut.
cladrastus From the Greek clados, branch, and thrastos, brittle.
coccinea From the Greek kakkos, in an obscure reference to the red fall color of scarlet oak.
communis From the Latin, meaning common, or as applied to Juniperus communis, in reference to its wide distribution.
concolor A combination of the Latin con, together, and color, meaning one color.
contorta From the Latin con and torquere, to twist.
cordiformis From the Latin cor, cordis, heart, and forma, shaped, in reference perhaps to the shape of fruit of bitternut hickory.
cornus The Latin name for the dogwood, from cornu, horn, in reference to the hard wood of this genus.
crataegus From the Latin name for the hawthorn, through the Greek krataigos, thorn-tree, and kratos, strength, because of the strong hard wood.

decidua From the Latin de, down, and cadere, to fall.
dioicus Meaning two houses, in reference to dioecious.
distichum From the Greek di, two, and stichos, rank, meaning two-ranked.

echinata Meaning prickly, referring to the cone.

fagus From the Greek fagein, to eat, in reference to the edible fruit.
florida From the Latin flos, flower.
fraxinus The Latin common name of the ash.

gleditsia Named after J. G. Gleditsch, a German botanist of the time of Linnaeus.
gymnocladus From the Greek gymnos, naked, and klados, branch.

hamamelis From the Greek name for the medlar, or some similar tree.
heterophylla From the Greek heteros, different, and phyllon, leaf, meaning varied leaves.
hippocastanum The Latin common name for the horsechestnut tree, from the Greek hippos, horse, and kastanon, chestnut.

ilex The Latin name for the holly oak.
ilicifolia Meaning holly-like leaf.
imbricaria Meaning covered with overlapping plates or scales.

juglans From the two Latin words Jovis, Jupiter, and glans, nut.
juniperus The Latin common name for the cedar, from junio, young, and parere, to produce, hence youth producing, or evergreen.

laciniosa From the Latin lacinia, shred.
laricina Pertaining to the larch.
larix The Latin common name for the larch.
lenta From the Latin lentis, soft or smooth, pliable; in reference perhaps to the supple branchlets of the black birch.
liquidamber In reference to the resinous juice that flows from wounds to the sweetgum.
liriodendron From the Greek lerion, lily, and dendron, tree, in reference to showy flowers.
lithocarpus From the Greek lithos, stone, and karpos, seed.
lyrata From the Greek lyra, lyre or lute.

macrocarpa From the Greek makros, large, and karpos, seed, in reference to the large acorn of bur oak.
malus From the Latin name for the apple, from the Greek melon, through the Doric malon.
mariana From the Latin for the state of Maryland.

negundo The Latinized form of the Malayan name for Vitex negundo; presumably applied to the boxelder because of the similarity of the leaves of the two species.
nigra The Latin for dark or black.
nyssa From the Greek nysa, water nymph.

occidentalis The Latin for west, from occidere, to set as the sun; the name given by Linnaeus to several species of the western world.
octandra The latin for eight stamened.
opaca The Latin for dark, dull, or shady
ostrya From the Greek ostrua, the common name of some tree with hard wood.
ovata From the Latin ovum, egg, hence egg-shaped.
oxydendron From the Greek oxys, sour, and dendron, tree.

plaustris The Latin meaning "of the swamp,"from palus, swamp.
papyrifera From the Egyptian name for the reed from which paper was made, through the Greek papuros, or papyros, and the Latin ferre, to bear.
phellos The Greek word for cork.
picea The Latin common name for the pine, spruce, or fir, from the Greek pissa, pitch, or peuke, the name for the fir.
pinus The Latin name for the pine, from the Sanskrit pitu, through the Greek pitus.
platanus The Latin common name for the sycamore, or plantetree, from the Greek platanos, broad.
plicata From the Latin plicare, to fold, referring perhaps to overlapping foliage.
pomifera The Latin for apple-bearing.
ponderosa From the Latin pondus, weight.
populas The Latin common name for this group of trees.
prinus From the Greek for evergreen.
procera The Latin for tall, or high.
prunus From the Greek prunos, plum or cherry.
pseudoacacia From the Greek pseudo, false, and acacia.
pseudotsuga Meaning false hemlock.
pungens From the Latin pungere, to stick or prick, hence either prickly or pungent; in reference to the needles of blue spruce which are sharp-pointed and have a pungent taste.

quercus The Latin common name of the oak.

rhamnus From the Greek rhamnos, the common name of the buckthorn.
rhododendron From the Greek rodon, rose, and dendron, tree.
rhus From rhous, the Greek common name of the sumac through the Greek reo, to flow.
robinia Named after Jean and Vespasien Robin, herbalists for King Henry IV of France.
rubens From the Latin rubere, to be red.

saccharinum Considered by some to be a misspelling of saccharum.
saccharum The Latin word for sweet or sugar, through the Sanskrit sarkara, and the Greek sakcharon.
salix The ancient Latin common name of the willow.
sempervirons From the Latin semper, always, and vivere, living.
serotina From the Latin serus, late, in reference to the tardily opening cones of pond pine, the autumn flowering of the red elm, and the late appearance of flowers and fruit in black cherry.
sitchensis The Latin form of Sitka, and island in Alaska.
sorbus The Latin common name for this genus.
speciosa From the Latin species, form, or appearance, and osus, full of, in reference to the showy flowers of the catalpa.
spicatum From the Latin spica, a spike or ear of grain, in reference to the pointed inflorescence of mountain maple.
stellata The Latin for covered with stars.
strobus From the Greek strobos, or strobilos, cone.
styraciflua The Latin for styrax-flowering.
sylvestris (Also sylvatica) from the Latin silva, forest, hence "of the forest."

teada The Latin word meaning a torch of pine wood.
taxus From the Greek taxos, common name of the yew.
thuja From the Greek thuia, the common name of some aromatic African tree; from thuo, perfume.
tilia The Latin common name of the linden (basswood).
toxicodendron From the Greek toxikon, poison, and dendron, tree.
tricanthos From the Greek treis, three, and akantha, a spine, in reference to the three-branched thorns of honeylocust.
trichocarpa From the Greek thrix, a hair, and karpos, fruit (hairy fruit).
tsuga The Latinized form of the Japanese common name of a hemlock.
tulipifera Meaning tulip-bearing.
typhina Meaning "cat-tail-like," in reference perhaps to the hairy branchlets of staghorn sumac.

ulmus The ancient Latin name of the elm.

velutina From the Latin velutum, velvety, and velus, a fleece.
vernix The Latin for varnish.

zanthoxylum From the Greek zanthos, yellow, and xulon, wood.

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