Science is a serious business. The search for knowledge requires dedication, patience, and rigorous analysis of the facts. When the hard work is over and a new entity has been discovered, a scientist gets to celebrate the crowning moment of his achievement by putting a name on what he has found.
For most scientists, this means thinking up a profound or descriptive name that will be recognized across the world. For some, though, it is a chance to be playful after years of serious study. Sometimes, a name just happens to be hilarious.
Here are 10 of the funniest names you’ll find in the annals of science.
Featured image credit: dino.wikia.org
10 Scientific Names With Ridiculous Backstories
10 Turdus maximus
Photo credit: Jimfbleak
The thrush family of birds never really had a chance when it came to their names. For starters, thrush is the common name for a yeast infection in the genitals. But long before the English language played a dirty trick on the thrushes, the Romans had labeled them with another. To a Latin speaker, a thrush was called a turdus.
When Latin-loving scientists decided to create the binomial method of naming animals, they stuck the name Turdus on all thrush birds. This has led to some now-amusing names like Turdus ignobilis, but there is one bird that got the worst label of all. The Tibetan blackbird is rather large, so what would you call it but Turdus maximus?
9 Scaptia beyonceae
Photo credit: twitter.com
Taxonomy, the naming and classification of species based on their supposed relationships, is usually considered a dry and arcane subject. However, those who spend their time studying species can use their power of naming to raise public interest in their work. Naming a species after a famous person is usually good for a few articles in the press—even if the associated person is not always thrilled by the animal named after him or her.
In 2011, when researchers described a rare fly discovered in 1981, they took note of its most notable feature and worked out the perfect name. This fly has a glorious set of golden hairs on its rear end. You could say it was “Bootylicious.” Taking this as a sign, the researchers named the fly after Beyonce, who also shares a birth year with the discovery of the fly.
8 Tiny Frogs
Photo credit: Smithsonian Magazine
The smallest vertebrate in the world is a frog called Paedophryne amauensis. When fully grown, it is a minuscule 7.7 millimeters (0.3 in) long and could comfortably fit on your little fingernail. Faced with this tough competition, the three species of frog named in 2019 had to set themselves apart in the world of small frogs somehow.
Searching through the vast Madagascan jungles for such tiny frogs was just one difficulty. Once they had been tracked down by listening for their calls, the frogs had to be studied.
Given that the three new species ranged in size from 8 millimeters (0.31 in) to 15 millimeters (0.59 in), this proved a fiddly job. But eventually, the scientists were sure that they were all new species belonging to a brand-new genus—Mini. So, of course, the researchers named the frogs Mini mum, Mini scule, and Mini ature.
Chemistry is known as the smelly science—and for good reason. Working in a lab can be an assault on your senses, ranging from the subtly pleasant to the downright noxious. In earlier centuries, the sense of smell, and sometimes taste, was the best way to distinguish different compounds—though licking chemicals today is frowned on. But some chemicals still bear the names of their smells.
The polyamine group of chemicals have strong odors, and their names match this trait. As their names suggest, putrescine and cadaverine are some of the chemicals that give rotting meat its smell. As for spermidine? It smells as you might imagine.
Spermidine is not only found in male ejaculate, however. It is found in foods like aged cheese, and some studies have shown that it can help fight liver cancer. Swallowing this may be good for your health.
If you name a chemical using the agreed international standard, you will be able to picture it precisely from its descriptive moniker. However, these names can be so long that they are unwieldy. So scientists give the substances nicknames.
When one group of researchers synthesized a new chemical, they must have celebrated and forgotten to close the window. During the night, a pigeon flew into the lab and left droppings everywhere. They took this as a sign and nicknamed the chemical “cristane” after “crissum,” the anus of a bird.
Arsole has a more prosaic etymology. A chemical known as phosphole contains a phosphorus atom. After that atom was replaced with one of arsenic, the researchers simply added that to the name instead.
Although arsole has not been purified, scientists have created a group of similar molecules, all of which are arsoles. There is no reliable report describing the smell of an arsole.
10 Bizarre Scientific Photographs from the 19th Century
Photo credit: peakscientific.com
3,4,4,5-tetramethylcyclohexa-2,5-dien-1-one does not really roll off the tongue. For a chemist, this name conjures up an image of a ring molecule with various appendages. For the nonscientist, however, the name probably doesn’t mean much. But give the compound the name penguinone, and you can probably guess what it looks like.
There is no known use for penguinone yet, but it does at least give chemists something to put on their Christmas cards.
4 Sonic Hedgehog
Photo credit: digitalspy.com
The SHH gene is one of the most important genes in the development of animals. In everything from insects to humans, the product of this gene plays a vital role in embryo growth. It is involved in everything from brain growth to the development of the eyes.
What does SHH make? Sonic hedgehog.
Sonic hedgehog is the name given to the protein made by SHH. When researchers knocked out several related genes in fruit flies, they noticed that the animals developed short, spiky hairs—a bit like a hedgehog’s bristles. So the genes were named after hedgehogs—like the Indian or desert hedgehog. One researcher decided not to name his gene after a real animal and went with Sonic the Hedgehog.
Not every scientist was pleased by this name. “It’s the kind of idea that you talk about in a pub and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if we named it Sonic?’” said one researcher. “But then you don’t do it.”
3 Moronic Acid
Photo credit: tropical.theferns.info
Naming a chemical from its source is a common way of distinguishing compounds—as spermidine showed. What else would you call an acid derived from a tree called Mora except moronic acid?
Moronic acid is not as stupid as its name may suggest. Studies of the compound have found that it may be a powerful agent against HIV and herpes.
Moronic acid is not the only humorously named chemical derived from a plant. When naming a compound purified from the plant Vinca pubescens, researchers decided that pubescine was a perfectly normal name.
Photo credit: Ayca Wilson
Tuojiangosaurus is a genus of herbivorous dinosaur that looked like the North American Stegosaurus. Living around 155 million years ago in China, Tuojiangosaurus was an early relative of the stegosaurs that would later evolve. Despite being an early ancestor, it had already developed a four-spiked tail used for defense against predators. Let’s hope it also had a well-developed sense of humor.
Tuojiangosaurus may not strike you as a funny name at first. However, next to a near-perfectly preserved skeleton, the Natural History Museum in London gave the pronunciation of its name as “Two-wang-oh-sore-us.” Little is known about the dinosaur’s genitalia, but it is unlikely to have had two wangs or to have been sore about it.
Since then, the scientific community seems to have realized its mistake and changed the pronunciation guide on most websites to “too-YANG-oh-sore-us.” The physical sign in the Natural History Museum remains unchanged.
Photo credit: assignmentpoint.com
There is no higher honor for a mineralogist than to have a mineral named after him. Each year, the Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names at the International Mineralogical Society grants the names of around 40 new minerals as they are discovered.
This process ensures that new minerals are not given the same name as one already discovered. When colleagues wanted to name a mineral after the mineralogist Paul Moore, it was discovered there was a mooreite already on the books. So paulmoorite was born.
Most minerals will end up with the names of their discoverers. That’s how you end up with jimthompsonite, but that’s not how cummingtonite got its name. Discovered in Cummington, Massachusetts, this mineral is usually found in the form of slender crystals. It has also become a favorite chat-up line for geology students the world over.
10 Goofy Pranks Involving Serious Scientists
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fact checked by Jamie Frater
- Pison eu. ...
- Gelae baen. ...
- Kamera lens. ...
- Spongiforma squarepantsii. ...
- Agra. ...
- Ninjemys oweni. ...
- Vini vidivici. ...
- Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides. Don't worry, there's no clever meaning that surfaces after you say this name out loud.
Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides Brunetti 1923 - family Stratiomyidae. The Southeast Asian soldier fly, native to Thailand, has the longest valid scientific name for any animal, and any macroscopic organism.Can a scientific name be 3 words long? ›
The scientific name of a species is a binomen (i.e., consists of two words). The scientific name of a subspecies is a trinomen (i.e., consists of three words). The names of genera, species and subspecies are conventionally underlined or placed in italics.What is a science Z word? ›
zirconium – Zirconium is the name for the element with atomic number 40 and is represented by the symbol Zr. It is a member of the transition metals group.What is the craziest science fact? ›
Hot water freezes faster than cold water
This may seem counterintuitive, but it's called the Mpemba effect. Scientists now believe this is because the velocities of water particles have a specific disposition while they're hot that allows them to freeze more readily.
- World Changing Scientists. ...
- Francis Crick (1916-2004) ...
- William Buckland (1784-1856) ...
- Jose Delgado (1915-2011) ...
- Stubbins Ffirth (1784-1820) ...
- Sergei Brukhonenko (1890-1960) ...
- Paracelsus (1493-1541) ...
- Jack Parsons (1914-1952)
Latin names in the US Top 100 for girls include Ava, Clara, Lillian, Olivia, and Stella. For boys, Latin names in the US Top 100 include Dominic, Lucas, Julian, Roman, and Sebastian. In Rome, popular names include Cecilia, Viola, Christian, and Santiago.What is the longest name in science? ›
The longest scientific binomial name given to any animal is Parastratiosphecomyia stratiosphecomyioides (containing 42 letters), which is a species of stratiomyid fly with a metallic green thorax and abdomen, known as the soldier fly.What is the longest name? ›
The longest personal name is 747 characters long, and belongs to Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff Sr.
Appearing in the Oxford English Dictionary, this 45-letter word for a disease is the longest English word that is defined in a major dictionary. It's a technical word referring to the lung disease more commonly known as silicosis.
- Scientific name: Rhinecanthus rectangulus.
- Letters: 22 (common name)
- Scientific name: Archilochus colubris.
- Letters: 24 (common name)
- Scientific name: Chaetophractus vellerosus.
- Letters: 24 (scientific name)
- Scientific name: Parcoblatta pensylvanica.
- Letters: 25 (common name)
Virus names, on the other hand, are to be written in lower case (except if a part of the virus name is a proper noun) and in standard, non-italicized, script (e.g. rabbit hemorrhagic disease virus) [23, 36].What is the bacteria with the longest name? ›
Meet the newly described myxobacterium Myxococcus llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochensis. That's right: 73 letters (68 if you count by Welsh orthography, treating 'ch' and 'll' as digraphs).What is a 3 letter Z word? ›
The 3 Letter Words Starting With Z are zen, zee, Zoo, zip, zag, zap, zit, zin, zas, zek, zap, zed, etc. These are a few 3 letter words that start with Z.What starts with F in science? ›
- Fluorine, symbol F, a chemical element.
- f-block, a block of elements in the periodic table of elements.
- F (or Phe), abbreviation for compound phenylalanine.
uranium – Uranium is the name for the element with atomic number 92 and is represented by the symbol U.What are 10 crazy facts? ›
- The Queen Owns all the Swans and Dolphins! ...
- There is a Village Called Dull. ...
- Urine Used To Be A Detergent. ...
- Apple Pips Are Poisonous! ...
- These Creepy Coffins Were Found on Arthur's Seat! ...
- You Can't Hold Your Nose and Hum. ...
- There is a Fish with Legs. ...
- The Bayeux Tapestry is 70 Metres Long!
You can sneeze faster than a cheetah can run.
We sneeze at around 100 miles per hour, faster than cheetahs run and four-and-a-half times faster than Usain Bolt's world record. You might think that's impressive, but it's SNOT.
- Water makes different sounds depending on its temperature! ...
- McDonald's invented a sweet-tasting type of broccoli! ...
- Rabbits can't be sick! ...
- Humans are the only animals that blush! ...
- The hashtag symbol has a fancy term! ...
- Apple pie isn't American!
Answer. The maddest person in the history was a scientist named Sir Henry Head..Who is No 1 scientist ever? ›
Albert Einstein is one of the most famous scientists in the world. He used to be an eccentric person who was perhaps the only scientist in the world who has become such a household name. His theories of relativity, gravitation and his understanding of molecules have defined new approaches in science.Who is the maddest scientist in the world? ›
- Barry Marshall. This guy drank bacteria to prove they caused stomach ulcers. ...
- Werner Forssmann. ...
- Stubbins Ffirth. ...
- Thor Heyerdahl. ...
- Tycho Brahe. ...
- August Bier. ...
- Sir Henry Head. ...
- George Stratton.
- Nefeli – Νεφέλη Alternative spelling: Nephele.
- Achilleas – Αχιλλέας Alternative spelling: Achilles.
- Calliope – Καλλιόπη ...
- Iasonas – Ιάσονας ...
- Phaedra – Φαιδρα ...
- Leonidas – Λεωνίδας ...
- Zoe – ζωή ...
- Alexandros – Αλέξανδρος
Earth is the only planet not named after a Roman god or goddess, but it is associated with the goddess Terra Mater (Gaea to the Greeks). In mythology, she was the first goddess on Earth and the mother of Uranus.What's a cool Galaxy name? ›
- Andromeda Galaxy.
- Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy.
- Cygnus A.
- Maffei I and II.
- Magellanic Clouds.
- Milky Way Galaxy.
- Virgo A.
Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis is the longest word entered in the most trusted English dictionaries.What girl has 1000 letters in her name? ›
When the little girl was born on September 12, 1984, her parents wrote Rhoshandiatellyneshiaunneveshenk Koyaanisquatsiuth Williams on her birth certificate. However three weeks later they decided it simply wasn't long enough, so they filed an amendment which made it 1,019 letters long.What's the shortest name ever? ›
What's the shortest name? "E" or "E" (鄂) is a common Chinese surname, and one found in the classic book The Hundred Family Surnames from the early Song Dynasty.
- 1 Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis (forty-five letters): ...
- 2 Pseudopseudohypoparathyroidism (thirty letters): ...
- 3 Floccinaucinihilipilification (twenty-nine letters): ...
- 4 Antidisestablishmentarianism (twenty-eight letters):
The longest-named fruit is a cultivated variety of the American elderberry (Sambucus canadensis L.) This cultivar was developed upon a wild variety found near Osceola, Missouri. The original species occur naturally in central and eastern United States and southeastern Canada.What animal starts with letter A? ›
Albatross, Anaconda, Anteater, Antelope, Alligator, Ape, Armadillo. Introduce toddlers and preschoolers to the magic of the Alphabetimals by exploring animals beginning with the letter A.What is the longest pet? ›
The Sulcata Tortoise, Leopard Tortoise and the Egyptian Tortoise are among the longest-living pets and the chances of them outliving their owners are very high. With the ability to grow to be up to four feet long, Giant Tortoises live the longest are very common house pets.What is the longest virus name? ›
|Giant virus name||Genome Length||Hair cover|
|Megavirus chilensis||1,259,197||yes (75 nm)|
|Mamavirus||1,191,693||yes (120 nm)|
|Mimivirus||1,181,549||yes (120 nm)|
|M4 (Mimivirus "bald" variant)||981,813||No|
Influenza A viruses are further classified into subtypes, while influenza B viruses are further classified into two lineages: B/Yamagata and B/Victoria. Both influenza A and B viruses can be further classified into clades and sub-clades (which are sometimes called groups and sub-groups.)What are the 10 deadliest bacteria? ›
- Pseudomonas Infection.
So were they ever alive? Most biologists say no. Viruses are not made out of cells, they can't keep themselves in a stable state, they don't grow, and they can't make their own energy. Even though they definitely replicate and adapt to their environment, viruses are more like androids than real living organisms.Which country has the longest name? ›
|Rank||Country Name||Character Count|
|1||The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland||56|
|2||Independent and Sovereign Republic of Kiribati||46|
|3||Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Principe||45|
|4||The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia||41|
- SPARROW JAMES MIDNIGHT.
- SPECK WILDHORSE.
- SUNDAY MOLLY.
- TU MORROW.
- ZUMMA NESTA ROCK.
A son, Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff Jr., was born in Philadelphia in 1952, and was able to pronounce his surname by age three. Family letterhead used the form "Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff".What is the weirdest named body part? ›
Philtrum. There's an indentation just above the mouth and below the nose with a name of its own. Physiologists call it the philtrum….What is the weirdest plant name? ›
- All plant names have a story to tell. ...
- Monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) ...
- Begonia darthvaderiana. ...
- Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) ...
- Pterichis aragogiana. ...
- Sneezewort (Achillea ptarmica) ...
- Mother-in-law's tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata)
Brfxxccxxmnpcccclllmmnprxvclmnckssqlbb11116 — it's pronounced “Albin” — was born in 1991 to parents in the small town of Varberg, Sweden. It caused a problem because, in 1982, Sweden enacted what a “Naming Law” which regulates what first names are acceptable for children born within its borders.What is a forbidden name? ›
A forbidden header name is the name of any HTTP header that cannot be modified programmatically; specifically, an HTTP request header name (in contrast with a Forbidden response header name).What is the rarest guy name? ›
What is the rarest boy name? The rarest baby boy name is Rome, but other rare baby boy names include Chester, Henley, and Maynard. Finding a rare baby boy name means discovering a unique fit for your little one.What is the shortest name ever? ›
What's the shortest name? "E" or "E" (鄂) is a common Chinese surname, and one found in the classic book The Hundred Family Surnames from the early Song Dynasty.What is the biggest real name? ›
The longest personal name is 747 characters long, and belongs to Hubert Blaine Wolfeschlegelsteinhausenbergerdorff Sr.Which bone has longest name? ›
Bones with the longest name
Out of the whole skeleton, a bone from the foot, one of the tarsals, wedge shaped Intermediate cuneiform has the longest name with 21 letters. Word cuneiform refers to an ancient writing system used about 3400 BC because of its wedge shaped marks on clay pots and tablets.
The Bulbo-urethral gland is the organ with the longest name (20 characters with spaces or 18 letters total) among all of the body organs despite being very small in size as compared to liver and skin. There are two Bulbo-urethral glands lying below the prostate.
According to the Kew Plant List, the longest species name for a plant is Ornithogalum adseptentrionesvergentulum, the official scientific name for, ironically, an extremely small species of asparagus (and one that has no common name), and which, including the single space between genus and species, is 39 characters ...What flower has the longest name? ›