So this is my first blog post!

Why animals and other living things have scientific names

A lot of people think "why do we have scientific names?"

Simple reason: many animals and plants have similar names. I'm going to use the the peacock.

  • English: Blue peafowl, Congo peafowl, green peafowl, [peacock pheasant, peacock bass, peacock butterfly]
  • Spanish: Pavo real
  • Japanese: Kujaku
  • French: Paon
  • German: Pfau
  • Chinese: Kǒngquè


How about our feline friends, the cat?

  • English: Cat
  • Spanish: Gato
  • Japanese: Neko
  • French: Chat
  • German: Katze
  • Chinese: Māo


See how confusing it is? The peacock and cat have several names in different languages! Besides, which kind of cat am I talking about? Pallas's, African golden, marbled, wild, jungle, sand, Andean, fishing, flat-headed (see how many different types of mammals have the name 'cat' in them)? Oh, there's the Congo peafowl and green peafowl too. Note that there's also a peacock pheasant, butterfly and bass! Confusing, isn't it?

But what do we do to solve this? We give them scientific names. Scientific names are usually a mix of Greek or Latin and sometimes other languages as well.

So what are the scientific names of the peacock and cat?

  • Pavo cristatus
  • Felis catus

That clears things up. Turns out I'm talking about the domestic cat and the common peafowl ("peacock" is technically a male of the species).

Scientific names can be used in any language, not just English, but Japanese and French as well. Scientific names help tell people what a person is talking about. When a person says "Oh, that's a Pavo cristatus!", another can say "oh! I know what you're talking about!"

Some simple taxonomy

So... how do we classify living things? Most animals, including the common peafowl and domestic cat, have a classification.

  • Kingdom: A rank in the classification of organisms, below domain(*) and above phylum; a taxon at that rank (e.g. the plant kingdom, the animal kingdom) [1]
  • Phylum: A rank in the classification of organisms, below kingdom and above class; also called a division, especially in describing plants; a taxon at that rank
    • Mammals belong to the phylum Chordata. [2]
  • Class: A rank in the classification of organisms, below phylum and above order; a taxon of that rank. [3]
  • Order: A rank in the classification of organisms, below class and above family; a taxon at that rank. [4]
  • Family: A rank in the classification of organisms, below order and above genus; a taxon at that rank. [5]
  • Genus: a rank in the classification of organisms, below family and above species; a taxon at that rank [6]
  • Species: A rank in the classification of organisms, below genus and above subspecies(*); a taxon at that rank. [7]

(I have completely forgotten the saying that goes along with remembering this...)

(*) There are other classification terms, but we won't go in depth with that yet.

Classification of the common peafowl

  • Kingdom: Animalia (animals): In scientific usage, a multicellular organism that is usually mobile, whose cells are not encased in a rigid cell wall (distinguishing it from plants and fungi) and which derives energy solely from the consumption of other organisms (distinguishing it from plants). [8]
  • Phylum: Chordata (chordates): numerous animals having a notochord at some stage of their development; in vertebrates this develops into the spine. [9]
  • Class: Aves (birds): A member of the class of animals Aves in the phylum Chordata, characterized by being warm-blooded, having feathers and wings usually capable of flight, and laying eggs.
    • Ducks and sparrows are birds. [10]
  • Order: Galliformes (gal-ih-FOR-meez [11]) (gamebirds, fowl, gallinaceous [gal-ih-NAY-shus [11]] birds): a taxonomic order - the turkeys, grouse, quails and pheasants etc. [12]
  • Family: Phasianidae (fay-sih-AN-ih-day [11]) (turkeys, pheasants, etc.): Terrestrial, ground living species of birds [13]
  • Genus: Pavo: the peafowl (peacocks).
  • Species: cristatus: crested or having a crest.

Classification of the domestic cat

  • Kingdom: Animalia.
  • Phylum: Chordata.

To be finished later.


  1. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 2)
  2. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 1)
  3. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 9)
  4. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 8)
  5. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 4)
  6. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 1)
  7. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 2)
  8. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 2)
  9. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 1)
  10. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 1)
  11. ^ a b c Terres, John K. (1980). The Audubon Society Encyclopedia of North American Birds. Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.. ISBN 0394466519.
  12. ^ From Wiktionary (definition 1)... I dubbed it down since I'm not going to cover the harder taxonomy yet).
  13. ^ From Wiktionary

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