Scientific names explained,a selection of birds and plants whose common name begins with -M.  The  illustrations of the letter M that appear on this page are Public Domain courtesy of Fae Creative Commons.

eadowsweet. Filipendula ulmaria

The common name seems to be a corruption of the old English words Mede-Sweete  which derives from the fact that the plant was used to flavour mead,the Anglo-Saxon drink,made from fermenting honey.

Courtship and Marriage  this old country name for the plant derives from the fact it exudes two distinct aromas. The heady smell of the flowers is taken as courtship,while the sharper scent of the bruised leaves was taken as the reality of marriage.

The genus name filipendula derives from filum,meaning a thread + pendulus indicating hanging,refers to the threads connected to the root tubers.

The specific name ulmaria means Ulmus like {Elm} and alludes to the leaves.


Mullein,  Verbascum  thapus.

The common name of Mullein derives from one of two schools of thought. 1. the word was Moleyn in Anglo-Saxon and malen in old French derived from the Latin malandre or leprosy. The term malandre  also became applied to diseases in cattle,which included lung diseases,and the plant being used as a remedy,acquired its name of Mullein or Bullock's lungwort. 2. The soft leaves gives the Mullein family their name. It is derived from the old French moliens,which in turn is derived from the Latin mollis meaning soft

Country names--In days gone by the woolly 'felt' of the stems and leaves was employed as tinder,lamp wicks,and dipped in oil as crude torches giving rise to names such as Candlewick plant,torches,hedge taper,Feltwort and many others.

Verbascum, the genus name derives from Latin believed to be a corruption of barbascum,from Latin barba meaning a beard,in allusion to its shaggy foliage.

The specific name of thapus was the name of a town in Italy now known as Magnisi 

Mint-water,  Mentha aquatica 

The word mint and Mentha derive from the the Greek name Minthe for mint and the Latin word Mentha for mint.

aquatica,=growing in or near water.

Mint -corn mentha arvensis-arvensis means of the fields. 

Verbascum ,courtesy of Olivier Pichard CC BY-SA 3.0 unported license. Image taken in France

arigold.  Calendula officinalis

The common name of Marigold derives from its use in church festivals during the Middle Ages,as one of the golden flowers dedicated to the Virgin Mary. 

The genus name of Calendula derives from the Latin calandae,indicating the first day of the month,refers to the long flowering period. 

The specific name of  officinalis alludes to it being sold as a drug at the Apothecary.


Mustard -black,   Brassica nigra.

Mustard derives from mustum ,meaning the must,of newly fermented grape juice +ardens,meaning burning. In France where this practice began in the 13th century  it became known as mout-ardent and/or moutarde,which became corrupted to mustard.

Black and nigra both allude to the seeds ,nigra being Latin for black.

Brassica the Latin name for the Brassica family to which this plant belongs. 


Mulberry  Morus nigra.

Mulberry derives from the old English morberie ,from Latin morum.

The genus name Morus. It has been suggested that Morus derives from the Latin mora,indicating a delay,referring to the buds being one of the last to open in spring.

nigra-Latin for black alludes to the colour of the berries. 

ute Swan Cygnus olor

The common name of Mute derives from the fact that the bird is typically silent.

The genus name of Cygnus derives from the Latin name the swan from Greek name for the swan kuknos.

The specific name olor derives from Latin and also means swan.


Mandarin duck.  Aix galericulata 

Aix the genus name derives from Greek Aix a diving bird described by Aristotle.

The specific name of galericulata derives from Latin galerus indicating a skull cap.


Moorhen {water hen} Gallinula chloropus.

The common name is a little misleading  for moor is a corruption of mere a body of water.

Gallinula-derives from Latin and means Little Hen.

The specific name of chloropus derives from the Greel khloros=green +pous =foot


editerranean Gull. Larus melanocephalus.

Larus the genus name derives from Greek laros a sea bird.

The specific name derives from the Greek  melas meaning black + kephlaos meaning head.


Mourning Dove. Zenaida macroura

The common name derives from the birds demeanour. 

The genus name derives from Zonaide,Julie, Princess Bonaparte {1804-54} Wife of Ornithologist Prince Charles Bonaparte.

The specific name of macroura derives from Greek makros+oura =tail


Marsh tit.  Poecile palustris.

Marsh tit alludes to one of the birds habitats. 

The genus name of Poecile derives from Greek poikolos =spotted.

The specific name palustris, =of marshes. 


More Latin names you may come across while reading bird and/or plant books.

Malus=apple                                 macrophylla=large leaved.           mas=male

macropoda=large stalked               mentha=mint                              mus=mouse

manicata=long leaved.                   minthe=mint                               mitra=cap

mitis=soft,not spiny                       microphylla - small leaved            moschata-musky

marmorata=marbled                      miniscula=tiny                            marmoreum=mottled

mecon=poppy                               mimos= mimic                           mollis =soft

multiflorum=many flowered.            monticola =mountain living           montana =mountain

maculatus=spotted                       meliformis=melon shaped            maxima=larger

multiceps=with many heads.         matronalis=of matrons.                 majalis=flowering in May

media=intermediate.                      melas=black                              meli=honey

melissa=honey bee.                      minor=smaller                             minutum =very small

mucosa=moss-like                        muralis-relating to walls.              mimosa=leaved.

meta=in between.                          metra=hard or heart wood.           myrios=many

major=larger.                                marginata=margined.                  monos-single/alone

macrostachyium=large spikes       matrix=womb                              menanthos=moon flower 

morus=to bite                               mergere =to plunge/dive              meleagis=spotted

muriata =rough with spines.           mutabilis=changeable                  myosotis =mouse eared.

malabaricus=from Malabar.            maximus=largest                        mys=mouse

micro-small.                                  mephitis-bad odour                    minor=smaller

melos=song                                 macrodnta=large toothed             mauro-dark black

mesembria=noon                          mammila=nipple.                        muscivorus=fly-eating 

miriballis=wonderful                      mandragora=hurtful{to cattle}        munitum=armed with teeth

megalotis-big-eared.                     megas=large or great                   melano=black

morpho=shape                             marile indicating charcoal embers  

musca-a fly. 

Associated pages.Click on the relevant content banner at the top of this page.

Scientific names-A

Scientific names-B

Scientific names-C 

Scientific names -D

Scientific names-E

Scientific names-F 

Scientific names -G

Scientific names-H

Scientific names-I

Scientific names J&K

Scientific names-L

Full series A-z in this series now available.

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