Common name

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Trivial names (too trivial from the Latin trivialis ; that is, simple, understandable or well-known and common [names]) are names for things that do not correspond to any official systematics - i.e. that go beyond the German-speaking area - as they are usually defined in the assigned scientific subject areas were. Examples of such subject areas are biology , chemistry , medicine and pharmacy , but also areas or focal points of the aforementioned scientific subject areas such as their technical branches.

Trivial names are often the better known names in the relevant specialist fields. They are formed from terms used in everyday language. In contrast, the technical names, mostly made up of Latin or Greek words, are semantically more difficult to understand for the less educated .

Trivial names are often derived from common language names or popular names for the corresponding object, but are not identical with these. The often inherently fuzzy, sometimes even ambiguous general language terms are given a specific meaning in the context of the technical lexicon . Conversely, it happens that technical expressions from the scientific language pass into the general vocabulary; in the new usage they are no longer trivial names. This is how the name of the culinary herb “parsley” originated as a corruption from the (New) Latin Petroselinum . In scientific linguistic usage, the trivial names are usually precisely defined and contrast with the corresponding scientific names, mostly formed from Latin or Greek word stems, with the same delimitation, while general terms are usually blurred. The common name cats , for example, has a different meaning than the corresponding general term cats .


In biological nomenclature , a trivial name (or vernacular name ) or Latin noun triviale is the regional or national language name for a living being or a taxon instead of its scientific name. In German , for example, the name “lion” stands for the two-part species name ( binomial ) Panthera leo and in English the animal is referred to as lion . In addition, due to their tendency towards purely external descriptions, trivial names often blur the systematic relationships, but conversely they can also indicate relationships where, according to recent scientific findings, none exist. In addition, many common names are no longer unambiguous due to their age, for example " buttercup " stands for a whole range of yellow-flowered species and species groups from various families.


Artificial names

In addition to the “real” trivial names mentioned above (also known as folk names or popular names ) , systematized German-language names are widespread in biology and pharmacy, similar to chemistry . These are usually artificial names consciously created by the editors ( called "book names " by the Austrian botanist Manfred A. Fischer ), some of which are derived from real trivial names, but very often represent pure fantasy names. In many cases they go back to translations of the scientific species name. Corresponding creations of names are already widespread among authors of the 19th century. They became particularly popular, for example. B. as a collector's name for butterfly species. The purpose of these names is usually to make the group of organisms popular with laypeople by giving them more descriptive names. When giving names, a systematic approach is usually sought in that, if possible, each species is given a name, species names are derived from generic names by adding names, etc. Such German-language artificial names are widespread, e.g. B. in flowering plants, birds or dragonflies. In many cases there are standard lists of nomenclatures in order to keep the naming consistent. Corresponding lists exist for bird names, for dragonflies or for mollusks. In many cases, the names are used in scriptures that are deliberately aimed at laypeople, such as B. Red Lists or biological non-fiction books . This type of naming is well established in many cases, so that some of the names have almost achieved the status of "real" trivial names.

This type of naming is viewed critically in various areas. Many of the artificial names coined in this way are sometimes criticized as awkward, unrepresentative or even as ridiculous. This applies to name creations such as “Nesselwicht” or “Belt troll” (for types of bugs) or “Bohemian big-eyed gloomy half-winged” or “Granular spherical beetles” (for types of beetles). Occasionally “real” trivial names are replaced or displaced by systematized artificial names. An example would be " Acker-Kratzdistel " instead of "Ackerdistel" (so that all species of the genus Cirsium receive uniform German names).


In chemistry , trivial names are names for substances that do not correspond to the systematic chemical nomenclature according to IUPAC rules and only allow partial conclusions to be drawn about the composition or structure of a chemical compound or substance. Trivial names were usually suggested and coined by the natural scientists who first discovered, isolated, or synthesized the chemical compound they belong to. So were z. B. in the past, compounds were often named according to their origin and not according to their chemical properties: vanillin (systematically: 4-hydroxy-3-methoxybenzaldehyde) after its occurrence in vanilla or formic acid (systematically: methanoic acid ) after its extraction from distilled ants. Such trivial names are used in everyday life, but also in other sciences such as pharmacy , biology and medicine, as well as in technology . In chemistry, trivial names are used when the systematic designation is too cumbersome for the purpose. This is particularly the case with some biomolecules such as hemoglobin or chlorophyll . Even for simple, long-known compounds, trivial names are sometimes still used [e.g. B. for acetone (systematic: 2-propanone / dimethyl ketone) or acetylene (systematic: ethyne )], and their use is permitted in some cases by the IUPAC.

A large number of traditional names or newly created, recognized short names continue to be used in everyday usage through to scientific publications. The IUPAC differentiates between trivial names that have no relation to systematic nomenclature (e.g. water , urea or Glauber's salt ; systematic: hydrogen oxide / hydrogen oxide, carbonic acid diamide or sodium sulfate), semi-systematic names or semi-trivial names that use at least part of a systematic name (e.g. . as carbon dioxide instead of carbon material dioxide, trityl for the triphenylmethyl group, or glycerol propane-1,2,3-triol) and the systematic names. Also for the invention of new trivial names, e.g. B. of newly discovered natural substances , there are IUPAC-compliant rules.

Further examples

  • Copper paste as a common name for hot screw compound (technology)
  • Radar beam as a common name for the antenna diagram of a radar (technical)
  • Mutton jump as a common name for a voting or counting procedure in parliaments (political)

Web links

Wiktionary: Trivial name  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. trivial . Duden .de, Bibliographical Institute, 2016
  2. Hans Ziegler: The German folk names of plants and the relationship and mixing of the German tribes. In: Journal of the Association for Folklore , Volume 20, 1910, pp. 18–35.
  3. ^ Heinrich Marzell : Heavenly bread and devil's ladder. Popular plant names from Bavaria. Munich 1951 (= Bavarian Local Research , 3).
  4. Johannes Arends: Popular names of drugs, medicinal herbs, medicines and chemicals. 17th edition. Berlin / Heidelberg 2001.
  5. MA Fischer: Why German plant names? In: Neilreichia. 1, 2001, pp. 181-232.
  6. ^ Manfred Adalbert Fischer: On the typology and history of German botanical generic names with an appendix on German infraspecific names. In: Stapfia. Volume 80, Linz 2002, pp. 125-200, PDF on ZOBODAT
  7. Peter H. Barthel, Andreas J. Helbig : species list of birds in Germany. In: Limicola. Volume 19, No. 2, 2005, pp. 89–111, (PDF; 367 kB)
  8. Martin Lemke: Dragonflies - a (small) introduction. the naming.
  9. Jürgen H. Jungbluth: German names for native snails and mussels (Gastropoda et Bivalvia). 2002.
  10. Hans-Jürgen Hoffmann: German bug names ??? - The sense and nonsense of trivial names. In: Heteropteron. Issue 16, 2003, pp. 29-32, (PDF; 3.45 MB).
  11. Remigius Geiser: Red list of beetles (Coleoptera). In: Josef Blab, Eugeniusz Nowak, Werner Trautmann, Herbert Sukopp (eds.): Red list of endangered animals and plants in the Federal Republic of Germany (= Nature Conservation Actual No. 1). 4th, expanded and revised edition. Kilda-Verlag, Greven 1984, ISBN 3-88949-114-6 .
  12. ^ IUPAC Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry, R-0.2.3 Names.