Gallery Links
Users Online
· Guests Online: 17

· Members Online: 0

· Total Members: 4,960
· Newest Member: Urs-Peter
Forum Threads
Theme Switcher
Switch to:
Last Seen Users
· Juergen Peters01:05:32
· weia01:12:07
· evdb02:21:49
· libor03:14:15
· smol03:18:53
· Christian Sc...03:36:42
· nielsyese03:48:01
· JWV04:09:26
· ebbek04:26:03
· ESant04:51:26
Latest Photo Additions
View Thread :: Miscellaneous :: General queries
Who is here? 1 guest(s)
 Print Thread
Latin and Greek
Stephen R
#1 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 17:51
User Avatar


Location: Clitheroe Lancashire UK
Posts: 2396
Joined: 12.06.09

Is there an entomological equivalent to WT Stearn's classic book Botanical Latin? I find my early training in classical Latin and Greek quite useful in interpreting scientific names, but as in botany some root words have acquired specialised meanings they didn't have in the days of Cicero and Pliny. Many are obvious (cornu = antenna) though some take a bit of getting used to: Greek pous, pod- and Latin pes, ped- 'foot' are used in entomology for the whole leg (Dolichopus, flavipes) whereas cheir and manus 'hand' refer as one would expect to the tarsus only (Platycheirus, albimanus).

I thought it might be entertaining to have a thread for discussing the derivation of scientific names, so here are two questions to kick off with:

1: What does Calliphora mean?

2: Which Latin and Greek words are used to refer to the halteres?
Edited by Stephen R on 14-10-2009 17:52
#2 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 18:04
User Avatar


Location: Lake Kerkini, Greece
Posts: 1097
Joined: 02.01.08

I can't answer your questions, but I can tell you I have been surprised by poorly my modern Greek students distinguish between foot and leg, they treat the terms almost as synonymous.Frown
#3 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 18:11
User Avatar


Location: Reading, England
Posts: 7699
Joined: 12.07.04

I don't think there is a general explanation of entomological names but Maitland Emmet published a book called 'The Scientific Names of the British Lepidoptera', which is quite good and explains the derivations for that small group. Smile
Manager of the UK Species Inventory in the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity at the Natural History Museum, London.
#4 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 18:27

Location: Poland
Posts: 2340
Joined: 05.01.06

Hmm, maybe from: callus,calli + phorus, phori ? :|
dr. A. J. Woznica, Institute of Environmental Biology, Wroclaw University of Environmental & Life Sciences
#5 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 18:31
User Avatar


Location: Warsaw, Poland
Posts: 751
Joined: 17.10.06

there is a nice vocabulary of biological terms comprising a good deal of entomological names by Jerzy Kleiner from 1963 unfortunately only i polish. From this source Calliphora Calli -phora (from greek) can maen a beautiful - "thief insect" like drone, predatory wasp or a bee". Is not that strange?
very general entomologist
#6 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 18:56

Location: Poland
Posts: 2340
Joined: 05.01.06

next interpretation: from the Greek: it could be a being bearing of wounds scarring (callus is with all probability used in botany, if I remember !) if my English is correct Frown
(i.e. phosphoros - P - bearing the light, so calli - phoros ?)
Edited by Andrzej on 14-10-2009 18:57
dr. A. J. Woznica, Institute of Environmental Biology, Wroclaw University of Environmental & Life Sciences
David Gibbs
#7 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 19:03
User Avatar


Location: Bristol, UK
Posts: 833
Joined: 17.06.06

Stephen R wrote:
2: Which Latin and Greek words are used to refer to the halteres?

i think it is a greek word, see

Stephen R
#8 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 19:10
User Avatar


Location: Clitheroe Lancashire UK
Posts: 2396
Joined: 12.06.09

Andrzej wrote:
Hmm, maybe from: callus,calli + phorus, phori ? Frown

This may be the answer, Andrzej, but it seems very unlikely that Robineau-Desvoidy would have mixed Latin and Greek roots in the same word - and I don't think his peers would have let him get away with it if he had. The phora root is usually from Greek pherein = 'carry', but callus is Latin. If he meant 'callus-bearing' he should have put Callifer or Callifera.

In Greek the calli part must mean 'beautiful' (as in 'calligraphy' etc.). The phor root is used in many ways. It can mean 'carrier' (Hydrophoria) or, in botany, stalk (the carrying part), but I think it may also refer to the thing carried. I wonder if he meant it to mean the abdomen (like a street porter's burden), or even just the clothes. The abdomen is the most obviously 'beautiful' part of a bluebottle. I'm not at all sure about this, which is why I asked the question.

Marek's post arrived while I was writing this, and the 'beautiful thief' idea is a possibility - Phor with a long 'o' does mean 'thief' in Greek. Maybe Robineau-Desvoidy objected to Calliphora vicina stealing his dinner!

Thanks Chris and Marek for the useful references. I must see if I can find the Lepidoptera book.

David, of course you are right about the halteres! Are there any names that refer to them?
Edited by Stephen R on 14-10-2009 19:33
#9 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 19:18

Location: Poland
Posts: 2340
Joined: 05.01.06

hmm ! a very good job Stephen Grin
see, plz at:,
and at:
dr. A. J. Woznica, Institute of Environmental Biology, Wroclaw University of Environmental & Life Sciences
Stephen R
#10 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 19:30
User Avatar


Location: Clitheroe Lancashire UK
Posts: 2396
Joined: 12.06.09

Useful website, Andrzej - thanks. Like me, they didn't reckon on phor = 'thief' - it is rarely used in compounds, but I think it is the answer here.
#11 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 20:41
User Avatar


Location: Norway
Posts: 1751
Joined: 19.06.09

I have found this book very useful: Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms;sr=8-1

edit typos
Edited by cyprinoid on 14-10-2009 20:41
Stephen R
#12 Print Post
Posted on 14-10-2009 21:53
User Avatar


Location: Clitheroe Lancashire UK
Posts: 2396
Joined: 12.06.09

Thanks Cyprinoid, that does look useful. What does it give under 'phora'?

#13 Print Post
Posted on 15-10-2009 06:44
User Avatar


Location: Norway
Posts: 1751
Joined: 19.06.09


Call, -i, -o, =us: A beauty; beautiful (Greek)
Call, -e, -i, -o: hardened (Latin)


Phor: A thief; a kind of bee (Greek)
Phor, -a, -e, -i, -o: Carry, bear; movement (Greek)

I found this here:

Etymology: Gk, kallos, beauty, pherein, to bear

So it looks like 'bearer of beauty' might be the right translation.
Edited by cyprinoid on 15-10-2009 07:50
Igor Grichanov
#14 Print Post
Posted on 15-10-2009 07:39
User Avatar


Location: St.Petersburg, Russia
Posts: 1688
Joined: 17.08.06

I have found in my Lingvo:
halters [Gr., halteres, erum (eras) (Lat.: manipuli)
1) acervulus 2) bunch 3) bundle 4) cluster 5) fascicle 6) flocculus 7) lock 8) tuft

And here are some explanations from a Latin/Greek-speeking dipterist:
callichrómus, -a, -um [(Gr. kállos, chrôma) 'beautifully coloured']
callosóma [(Gr. kállos, sôma) 'with beautiful body']
callóstomus, -a, -um [(Gr. kállos, stóma) 'with beautiful mouth']
callósus, -a, -um [Lat.: 'with a (large) callosity']

Hydróphorus (m.) [(Gr. hydrophóros) 'bearing water'
Diáphorus (m) [(Gr. diáphoros) 'different']
Halteríphorus (m.) [(Gr. haltèr, phérein) 'bearing halters']

halterális, -e [(Gr. haltèr) 'with striking halters']
halterátus, -a, -um [(Gr. haltèr) 'with striking halters']

Edited by Igor Grichanov on 15-10-2009 07:40
Igor Grichanov
Steve Gaimari
#15 Print Post
Posted on 15-10-2009 16:43
User Avatar


Location: Sacramento, California, USA
Posts: 169
Joined: 08.10.04

cyprinoid wrote:
I have found this book very useful: Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms

This is a great reference - has a lot of information for such a small book! But I'm surprised to see no one has mentioned Ronald Wilbur Brown's "Composition of Scientific Words", published in 1954. The book was republished in 2000 - it is available through and I am sure other places. I think this is an absolutely indispensable resource!
Stephen R
#16 Print Post
Posted on 15-10-2009 18:36
User Avatar


Location: Clitheroe Lancashire UK
Posts: 2396
Joined: 12.06.09

Thanks everyone for your illuminating replies! RW Brown sounds like the bible I'm looking for. In botany I think new species still have to be described in Latin (may be out of date here, as in much else Frown), and Stearn's book is designed to help with this as well as in constructing satisfactory names. It goes into detail about such things as the exact meaning of colour words as used by different authors. I don't think publication in Latin is required for new taxa in entomology - am I right?

We seem to have two theories on Calliphora depending on which 'phor' root is intended. I'm inclining towards the 'beautiful thief' idea in Marek's Polish source.

Imagine the scene in the R-D household circa 1829:

Mme R-D: Jean Baptiste, one of your horrible flies is eating my filet mignon!

R-D: Mais cherie, it's a beautiful fly!

Mme: If you say so, my dear. But it's still a thief!

R-D: Hmm. Now what shall I call that new genus?

I think the next plan should be to engage a Spiritualist medium and get the answer 'from the horse's mouth'. Anyone have the required expertise?

#17 Print Post
Posted on 15-10-2009 19:48
User Avatar


Location: Norway
Posts: 1751
Joined: 19.06.09

Thank you Steve Gaimari! I have been looking for something like this for years.

Stephen R
#18 Print Post
Posted on 27-10-2009 11:46
User Avatar


Location: Clitheroe Lancashire UK
Posts: 2396
Joined: 12.06.09

I've been wondering about the -myia/-mya business (Anthomyia, Pegomya). Again it comes back to Robineau-Desvoidy! His 1830 Essaie sur les Myodaires is available free online, so I had a look. All his own coinages (eg Pegomya, Hylemya, Graphomya) use the simplified spelling, and for Anthomya (sic) he attributes the genus (with this spelling) to Latreille and Fabricius but refers to Anthomyia (Meigen and Fallen) as a synonym.

It looks as if there is something ideological going on here. Was there a spelling reform movement in Revolutionary France?

Actually it is possible (just) to justify the -mya spelling. In Liddell and Scott's Greek Lexicon 'Myia' is the normal word for fly, but 'Mya' is given as the dialect form from Attica. [The only authority for this is Photius, a 9th century AD scholar (who became Patriarch of Constantinople and is a saint in the Orthodox Church). He had access to a lot of Greek literature which is now lost.]

But my impression is that R-D didn't know much Greek or didn't much care. He spells Stomoxys (Geoffroy) 'Stomoxis'. I think it's no surprise that some of his etymologies are hard to fathom.

Incidentally Pegomya could mean 'strong/compact/dense fly' (pegos) or 'well/spring fly (pege = water source). He seems often to name flies after where he found them (Hylemya on a piece of wood?), so maybe he caught this one on a well.

Sorry for the essay - got carried away!
Stephen R
#19 Print Post
Posted on 26-12-2009 21:52
User Avatar


Location: Clitheroe Lancashire UK
Posts: 2396
Joined: 12.06.09

After recent discussions on spelling, I have been wondering about generic names ending in -myza. I had thought they must be derived from the Greek muzein, to suck, and refer to the feeding habits of the flies: as Sap-sucker (Opomyza) or Flower-sucker (Anthomyza). Most of these names were given by Fallen (1810 and 1820). But having looked through his 1826 book on the flies of Sweden here:
I have come to the conclusion that, like -mya, -myza is another variant of -myia, and it just means 'fly'. In which case those who correct Pegomya to Pegomyia should also correct Geomyza to Geomyia. And then where will it all end? For one thing, Anthomyia and Anthomyza will end up in the same genusShock Perhaps the taxonomy police are right after all!

My reasons are as follows:
1: The 'sucker' interpretation will not fit everywhere. Under the Family name Agromyzides (which includes Agromyza) he says the name comes from the adults' frequenting harvested fields and he gives the Swedish equivalent of Agromyza as Akerflugor (sorry no accent!). In fact in all his Swedish names he translates -myza as -flugor.
2: He 'corrects' Meigen's Callomyia (which he prints as Callomyja) to Callomyza. This seems to me to demonstrate that -myza is simply Fallen's preferred spelling of -myia, just as -mya was R-D's.

Incidentally, no-one could accuse Fallen of being ignorant of Latin and Greek. The whole 1826 publication is written in excellent and stylish Latin, and he justifies all his derivations by quoting the correct root word in Greek.
Edited by Stephen R on 26-12-2009 22:22
viktor j nilsson
#20 Print Post
Posted on 27-12-2009 19:57

Location: Gothenburg, Sweden
Posts: 203
Joined: 25.02.08

great posts, Stephen. My post mainly refers to the -myia/-mya business and deals more with nomenclature than with greek and latin. I agree in your interpretation, that all these authors have had their own personal suffixes that they used to say the same thing, in this case "-fly". Also, -myia would then be the "correct" way to latinize this. However, I think we should be happy that the code of zoological nomenclature isn´t too picky about the latinization of valid names, and it is rather clear that we are going to keep the original spelling if they are not obviously caused by errors in the printing process.
Since you mention the "taxonomy police" and express a fear that Anthomyza would become a synonym of Anthomyia (the horror!), it might be comforting to bring up a good example of why this won´t happen.

Take for example Graphomya Robineau-Desvoidy 1830.
Agazzi (1846), who obviously was really good at latin, realized that R-D wanted to say -fly, tnat is, -myia, and made an attempt to "correct" R-D´s sloppy latinization, proposing that the name should be spelled Graphomyia, and correctly stated that R-D originally spelled it Graphomya. This is, formally, the proper way to amend a name, that is, change it forever. If amendations are correct, this would simply have ment that in the future, the genus would have been called Graphomyia - keeping the original auctor and year, namely R-D 1830. However, Agazzi´s amendation is not justified. Agazzi did not agree with R-D´s usage of latin - but that is not enough to change a name.

From the ICZN:

32.5. Spellings that must be corrected (incorrect original spellings).

32.5.1. If there is in the original publication itself, without recourse to any external source of information, clear evidence of an inadvertent error, such as a lapsus calami or a copyist's or printer's error, it must be corrected. Incorrect transliteration or latinization, or use of an inappropriate connecting vowel, are not to be considered inadvertent errors.

Examples. If an author in proposing a new species-group name were to state that he or she was naming the species after Linnaeus, yet the name was published as ninnaei, it would be an incorrect original spelling to be corrected to linnaei. Enygmophyllum is not an incorrect original spelling (for example of Enigmatophyllum) solely on the grounds that it was incorrectly transliterated or latinized.


33.2.3. Any other emendation is an "unjustified emendation"; the name thus emended is available and it has its own author and date and is a junior objective synonym of the name in its original spelling

Hence, Graphomyia Agazzi 1846 is an unjustified emendation and becomes an invalid junior homonym of Graphomya R-D 1830.

However, in some cases even such unjustified emendations might be maintained and validated, that is if they have become widely used: when an unjustified emendation is in prevailing usage and is attributed to the original author and date it is deemed to be a justified emendation.

But... there is no way this is going to happen with Anthomyza!
Edited by viktor j nilsson on 27-12-2009 20:00
Jump to Forum:
Similar Threads
Thread Forum Replies Last Post
Minettia sp.? (Pelion, Greek mainland) Diptera (adults) 2 13-09-2018 17:36
ID request (Pelion, Greek mainland) Diptera (adults) 3 05-09-2018 15:32
ID please (Pelion, Greek mainland) Diptera (adults) 6 03-09-2018 20:58
Minettia sp.? (Thessaloniki, Greek mainland) Diptera (adults) 3 29-08-2018 23:02
Fly from Volos (Greek mainland) Diptera (adults) 5 13-08-2018 16:06
Date and time
18 May 2024 00:50


Not a member yet?
Click here to register.

Forgotten your password?
Request a new one here.
Temporary email?
Due to fact this site has functionality making use of your email address, any registration using a temporary email address will be rejected.

Please, help to make
possible and enable
further improvements!
Latest Articles
Syrph the Net
Those who want to have access to the Syrph the Net database need to sign the
License Agreement -
Click to Download

Public files of Syrph the Net can be downloaded HERE

Last updated: 25.08.2011
You must login to post a message.

07.03.24 00:01
Some flies preserved in ethanol and then pinned often get the eyes sunken, how can this be avoided? Best answer: I usually keep alcohol-collected material in alcohol

17.08.23 15:23

17.08.23 13:54
Tony, I HAD a blank in the file name. Sorry!

17.08.23 13:44
Tony, thanks! I tried it (see "Cylindromyia" Wink but don't see the image in the post.

17.08.23 11:37
pjt - just send the post and attached image. Do not preview thread, as this will lose the link to the image,

16.08.23 08:37
Tried to attach an image to a forum post. jpg, 32kB, 72dpi, no blanks, ... File name is correctly displayed, but when I click "Preview Thread" it just vanishes. Help!

23.02.23 21:29
Has anyone used the Leica DM500, any comments.

27.12.22 21:10
Thanks, Jan Willem! Much appreciated. Grin

19.12.22 11:33
Thanks Paul for your work on keeping this forum available! Just made a donation via PayPal.

09.10.22 17:07
Yes, dipterologists from far abroad, please buy your copy at veldshop. Stamps will be expensive, but he, the book is unreasonably cheap Smile

Render time: 8.86 seconds | 193,174,765 unique visits