Origins of names (Entomological Etymology)
I've been keeping track of these for a while. There are some fascinating names out there, especially for genera. There are often subtle classical allusions or jokes. I'm going to list things that stand out in terms of cleverness, poesy, and just plain coolness. This will always be a work in progress, given the large number of names for insects. Comments and corrections welcome.
- Chariessa--a clerid beetle, reference is to a martyr of the Eastern Orthodox Church--she was drowned with a ring of stones around her neck. The beetle has prominent, long, knobbed antennae, probably a reference to the ring of stones. (My all-time favorite so far.)
Mythology and Graeco-Roman religion and classical life:
- Horesidotes (grasshopper)--"he who regulates the seasons", i.e., Apollo
- Bomolocha, now Hypena (noctuid moth)--a Greek jester/beggar
- Laphria (robber fly)--Greek, despoiler, may refer to a religious festival with lots of sacrifices
- Buck Moth, Hemileuca maia. Maia was the moste beautiful of the Seven Sisters, the Pleiades
- sphinx moth Enyo and jumping spider Eris named for minor goddesses of war, horror and strife
- Anobiidae (death-watch beetles)--perhaps refers to Egyptian God of death, Anubis
Classical (Graeco-Roman, mostly) military terms:
- Promachus (big, mean robber fly)--Latin "soldier of the first rank"
- Diogmites (robber fly)--Greek (?), police agent (bounty hunter?)
- Trigonopeltastes (scarab beetle)--"triangular shield"
- Ichneumon Wasp, Gnamptopelta (bent shield) obsidinator (beseiger)
Simply interesting names from Latin, Greek, etc.
- Apantesis--a tiger moth. From Greek apantao = to meet (thanks to Chuck Entz), or possibly from Greek apanthesis, a time of flowering (Perseus Project)
- Penthe (teratomid beetle)--Greek, "to mourn". Also found in a Star Trek movie as the Klingon penal asteroid Rurapenthe
- same Greek root appears in Hemipenthes, a bee-fly that has wings half-cloaked in dark mourning colors
- Lestes (damselfly)--Greek, plunderer
- Lytta (beetle)--madness; perhaps refers to "worm" under a dog's tongue
- Melanolestes (assassin bug)--"dark plunderer"
- Pselliopus (assassin bug): Greek psellion=bracelet or anklet + pus < pous=foot (thanks to Chuck Entz on this one)
- Calopteron (Lycid beetle)--"beautiful wing"
- Calosoma (ground beetle)--"beautiful body"
- Xyloryctes (scarab beetle)--Greek, "wood mole"
- Xylophanes (sphinx moth), from Greek xylon=wood + phanes, from phaino=to appear, appear to be (in other words, "looks like it's wood")--thanks to Chuck Entz
- Chlaenius (ground beetle)--"cloaked"
- Greek Chaulios (?), "outstanding/impressive" shows up in cantharid beetle Chauliognathus (outstanding jaws) and neuropteran Chauliodes (outstanding teeth)
- Glischrochilus (sap-loving beetle)--"sticky lip"
- Ululodes (Owlfly), from a Latin word for owl
- Orgyia (Lymantriid moth), is Greek for "length of outstretched arms", i.e., a fathom--the author, Ferdinand Ochsenheimer, was an actor and playwright
- Amphion a genus of sphinx moths, and Zethus, a genus of wasps, named for the twins Amphion and Zethus
- Rasahus (assassin bug), from Hebrew "villain"
- Sinea (assassin bug), from Hebrew "thorny bush"
- Sehirus (true bug)--Hebrew, "spiky"
- Stiretrus anchorago--species name seems to come from the name of a fish
- Apiomerus (assassin bug) named for resemblance, at least of its legs, to a weevil, Apion
- Acholla (assassin bug) = "not spiny", referring to the cholla cactus, perhaps
- common names for the Eastern Dobsonfly (Corydalus cornutus)--hellgrammite (larva) and dobsonfly (adult), both obscure
Wordplay, anagrams, etc.:
- Cisseps (scape moth)--an anagram of Scepsis, the genus in which the moths were orginally placed
- Datana and Nadata (prominent moths) must be anagrams, both named by Walker in 1855. Walker also named a slug moth, Natada in 1855, yet another anagram. Are any of these the original word from whence the anagram?
- continuing the theme of lepidopteran anagrams, genus Anathix Franclemont 1937, an anagram (and largely a split from) the older genus Xanthia Ochsenheimer 1816
- the one North American representative of Xanthia is tatago, an anagram and split from the formerly conspecific Palearctic Xanthia togata
- Satole Dyar, 1908--anagram of Tosale Walker, 1863
- family Yponomeutidae ermine moths--based on a typographic error in the original publication
- Urgleptes (longhorn beetle)--an anagram of Lepturges, another longhorn genus
Puzzles--names of uncertain origin:
- Dicaelus, a ground beetle, refers to the pronotal projections that resemble engraving tools?
- Phileurus (scarab beetle)--loving well?
- Meloe (blister beetle)--Greek, to probe a wound?
- Tetrigidae (pygmy grassshoppers)--called "grouse locusts", from the name of a grouse, Tetrao tetrix?
- Cetoniinae--scarab beetle subfamily
- Eacles--genus of the Imperial Moth
- Atteva--genus of Ailanthus Webworm Moth--perhaps from English atter poison, pus
- Murgantia--stinkbug genus--perhaps refers to face-like markings
- Alydus--a genus of broad-headed bugs--origin unclear
- Hypsoropha (Noctuid moth)--typographic error for Hypsomorpha?
- Proxys (stink bug)--from Greek praxis?
Eponyms--named after a person:
Resources on the Etymology of Entomolgy
Handy links for searches:
- Google, of course
- Latin translation TBA
- Greek translation TBA
Important print references:
- Dictionary of Word Roots and Combining Forms (1)
- A Dictionary of Entomology (2)
- The Century Dictionary (3)
- The Oxford English Dictionary
- Cassell's Latin Dictionary
- Hamilton's Mythology
- TBA--Dictionaries of Mythology
Other lists of curious names: