In zoological nomenclature, a specific name (sometimes, informally, also: specific epithet) is the second part (second name) in the name of a species (a binomen). The first part is the name of the genus.
Note that in botanical nomenclature, "name" always refers to the whole name (of a species or otherwise), whereas in zoological nomenclature it can refer to either part of the binomen.
- Example: The scientific name for man is Homo sapiens, which is the species name, consisting of two names: Homo is the "generic name" (the name of the genus) and sapiens the "specific name".
Grammatically, a binomen (and trinomen) must be treated as a Latin phrase, which gives some justification to the popular usage of the phrase "Latin name" for the more correct "scientific name". Grammatically (in Latin grammar), the specific name can be:
- A noun in apposition with the genus: Panthera leo. The words do not necessarily agree in gender. This is very often a vernacular name, or the name (specific or generic) of a similar organism.
- A noun in the genitive.
- An adjective, agreeing in case and gender with the genus: Felis silvestris ("the forest cat")