Botanical Latin

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Dr. K's guide to botanical Latin, with profuse apologies to Wm. T. Stearn, from whom I (Kay) cribbed a lot of it.


Modern LetterClassicalTraditional
long afatherfate
short aapartfat
aeas ai in aisleas ea in meat
auas ou in houseas aw in bawl
ccatK before a, o, u (cat)
S before e, i, y (center)
chin greek words as K or as k-hk or ch
long etheyme
short epetpet
ggoG before a, o, u (go)
J before e, i, y (gem)
long imachineice
short ipitpit
consonant i"y" as in yellowj
long onotenote
short onotnot
oeas oi in toilas ee in bee
phas p or p-h if possiblef
ralways trilled(how do you trill???)
ssit, gassit, gas
ttable, nativet at beginning, but like ti in nation in middle
long ubrutebrute
short ufulltub
uias the French "oui"ruin
v (consonant u)WV
long yu as in French puras long i in cipher
short yas in French duas y in cynical

If you're a true "church latinist", "cie" is "ch", not "s" or "k"

Now, as to pronouncing names that are stolen from other languages or were once peoples' names, you're kinda on your own. Try to get it to an approximation of the original language OR try to come up with something that doesn't land with a dull thud on the ear.

"Warszeiczella" can be rendered "var-she-vi-CHEL-la".

One other problem. -ii or -iae endings can be tricky, since if you apply the penult/antepenult rule, you need to put the accent on the last syllable of the latinized personal name, which is usually where it doesn't belong. So people cut some slack on that rule when dealing with -ii and -iae endings.

Finally, words of wisdom from Stearn:

"Botanical Latin is essentially a written language, but the scientific names of plants often occur in speech. How they are pronounced really matters little provided they sound pleasant and are understood by all concerned..."

Ah-men! Dona nobis pacem! (at least on this topic!)

Kay Klier Biology Dept UNI