With the announcement of the Ultimate Dinosaurs: Giants of Gondwana exhibit comming to the Science Museum of Minnesota, I was thinking back to all the questions I have had regarding dinosaurs. Tyrannosaurus rex: the Tyrant Lizard King on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.
Tyrannosaurus rex: the Tyrant Lizard King on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta.Courtesy Mark Ryan

Questions like: "Who gets to name Dinosaurs?" "What is this dinosaur named after?" and "What does this name mean?". I thought that I'd take some time here to answer these questions.

  • "Who gets to name the Dinosaurs?": The person who discovers the first specimen of a new species is give the honor of naming it.
  • "What is this dinosaur named after?": Some times a dinosaur is named after a person (eg. Herrerasaurus), other times a region (eg edmontosaurus), and still others are named after a dominant feature (eg Deinonychus).
  • "What language is this name in?": Often scientific names use latin or greek for names, but it is not uncommon to have names with pieces from other languages (eg Masiakasaurus comes from both Malagasy and greek).
  • "What does this name mean?": Different names mean different things. I found a cool site that has many roots for dinosaur names. I am going to post a couple of names below to give you an idea.
  1. Amargasaurus from La Amarga Arroyo (spanish) meaning the bitter creek and Sauros (greek) meaning Lizard.
  2. Austroraptor from Auster (latin) meaning the southern wind and raptor (latin) meaning thief.
  3. Barionyx from Barys (greek) meaning heavy and onyx (greek) meaning claw.
  4. Buitreraptor from La Buitrera (spanish) meaning Vulture's Roost and raptor (latin) meaning thief.
  5. Carnotaurus from Carno (latin) meaning flesh and taurus (latin) meaning bull.
  6. Cryolophosaurus from Cryos (greek) meaning frozen, lophos (greek) meaning crest, and Sauros (greek) meaning lizard.
  7. Deinonychus from Deinos (greek) meaning terrible and onych (greek) meaning clawed
  8. Edmontosaurus from Edmonton (location) and Sauros (greek) meaning lizard.
  9. Eoraptor from Eos (greek) meaning dawn and raptor (latin) meaning thief.
  10. Futalognkosaurus from Futa (mapudungun) meaning giant, Lognko (mapdungun) meaning chief and sauros (greek) meaning lizard.
  11. Giganotosaurus from Gigas (greek) meaning giant, notos (greek) meaning south and sauros (greek) meaning lizard.
  12. Herrerasaurus from Herrera (discoverer's name) and Sauros (greek) meaning lizard.
  13. Majungasaurus from Majunga (the old name for the Mahajanga region of madagascar) and sauros (greek) meaning lizard
  14. Masiakasaurus from Masiaka (malagasy) meaning vicious and sauros (greek) meaning lizard.
  15. Massospondylus from Masson ( greek) meaning longer and spondylus (greek) meaning vertabra.
  16. Nigersaurus from Niger (country) and saurus (greek) meaning lizard.
  17. Ornithomimus from Ornis ( greek) meaning bird and mimikos (greek) meaning mimic.
  18. Ouranosaurus from Ourano (taureg) meaning monitor lizard and sauros (greek) meaning lizard.
  19. Parasaurolophos from Para ( greek) meaning near, sauros (greek) meaning lizard and lophos (greek) meaning crest.
  20. Simosuchus from Simo ( greek) meaning pug-nosed and suchus (greek) meaning crocodile.
  21. Suchomimus from Suchus ( greek) meaning crocodile and mimikos (greek) meaning mimic.
  22. Triceratops from Tri ( greek) meaning three, Keras (greek) meaning horn and ops (greek) meaning face.
  23. Tyrannosaurus Rex from Tyrannikos ( greek) meaning tyrant, sauros (greek) meaning lizard and rex (latin) meaning king.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Joe's picture
Joe says:

Nice article Josh. I found this video that folks many find interesting as well:

See video

I thought it was the person who described the dinosaur, (not always the discoverer) who named them? In the case of the Bambiraptor for instance, the discoverer was a 14 year old kid, but it was named by the group who described the species.

posted on Fri, 10/25/2013 - 8:57am
Lightning Flash's picture
Lightning Flash says:

Sometimes that is the case too, Joe, but to my knowledge it is most often the discoverer. I have heard of a specimen of Thescelosaurus that was left in a drawer in a museum's back room for TWENTY YEARS and then ended up being identified as a new species. It ended up being called Thescelosaurus Neglectii... or the neglected beautiful lizard.

posted on Sat, 10/26/2013 - 6:31pm
Layia's picture
Layia says:

Very Interesting!!! I did not know that scientists named dinosaurs after where they came from or who found it!!! I want to know more!!!

posted on Mon, 12/23/2013 - 3:15pm

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