What is a Nomen nudum?

By | December 3rd, 2010|Educational Activities, Main Page|0 Comments

What is a Nomen nudum?

We were emailed this morning by a reader of our Everything Dinosaur blog with a question.  The emailer had come across the term Nomen nudum whilst reading an article about dinosaurs and asked us to explain what the term means.

When organisms are classified, be they animals, plants, or whatever, they are named.  However, to be properly accepted in scientific circles as a name for a specific organism (genus and species name), a formal description has to be made.  To make a formal description a “type” specimen has to be decreed, a sort of “master specimen” to which all other material ascribing to that species is compared.  This is known as the holotype.  In essence, the holotype represents the specimen on which the original scientific description of that organism is based.

Nomen nudum (usually written in italics), is a Latin phrase used to describe any organism whose definition in terms of a formal scientific description has not been completed – it has no holotype material assigned.  The plural of the phrase, indicating more than one type of organism being described in this way is Nomina nuda.  The phrase literally means “naked name”.