Scientific names explained. A selection of plants and birds whose common name begins with O. The letter O illustrations that appear on this page are in the public domain,uploaded to Creative Commons Courtesy of Fae.

ak English Quercus rober

Oak derives from the old English ac-related to Norse eik, later oke and oken.

Quercus is thought to derive from the Celtic quer,meaning fine + cuez a tree.

The specific name of rober means sturdy and alludes to the wood.


Orache ,common Atriplex patula. 

The common name of Orache derives from the old French -arache .

The genus name of Atriplex is a  Greek name for the Orache and plants of the Goosefoot family. It derives from two words which together mean 'not to flourish' but he meaning has been lost in time.

The specific name of patula derives from the Latin patulus indicating to stand open. 


Oyster plant. Mertensia maritima.

The common name derives from the fact that the leaves are said to taste tangy,like oysters. 

The genus name of Mertensia  alludes to German botanist Franz Karl Mertons.

maritima -growing by the sea

Orache Atriplex patula. Courtesy of mieoli CC BY-Sa 3.0 generic license

rchid. Bee orchid Ophrys  apifera

The common name of orchid derives from orchis meaning testis referring to the two egg shaped tubers which Pliny stated looked like testicles.

Ophrys is the Greek name for the orchid

apifera -the specific name means bee-bearing and alludes to the flowers which somewhat resemble a bumblebee. 


Onion-Allium cepa 

The common name of onion derives from the old French word oignon  from Latin unio related to union.

Allium the genus name  is the Greek name for Garlic.

Cepa the specific name  the Latin species name for the onion.


Orpine.   Sedum telephium 

Orpine derives from orpiment  an old French word fro a golden pigment.Orpine has no gold about it ,the name was originally given to the wall pepper,a yellow flowered plant of the same genus but after translation it was given to to a plant that was wrongly believed  to be the same species.

The genus name of Sedum derives from Latin Sedo meaning to sit,many stonecrop species are low growing. 

The specific name of telephium is a Greek name for plants such as Sedum. 

Bee orchids are so called because the flower is said to resemble a bumblbee

Courtesy of Bjorn S,originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Creative Commons by Hiku2

sprey. Pandion haliaetus.

The common name of osprey is apparently from the Old french ospres from Latin ossifraga meaning bone breaker from os-bone + fragere meaning to break.

The genus name of Pandion is named after the mythical Greek king of Attica.

The species name of haliaetus is from Greek halos meaning the sea+aetos meaning an Eagle.


Oyster catcher. Haematopus ostralegus

The genus name of Haematopus derives from Greek haima meaning blood+pous=foot.

The specific name of ostralegus  derives from Latin ostrea=oyster+legere to lift.


Oriental Pratincole .  Glareola maldivarum.

The common name of Pratincole derives from new Latin pratincola meaning field dweller from old Latin pratum =meadow.

Glareola  the genus name derives from Latin glarea meaning gravel

The species name of maldivarum -indicates the Maldive Islands.  

Oriental Pratincole. Courtesy of Charles Lam ,originally posted to Flickr uploaded to Creative Commons by Ltshears.CC BY-SA 2.0 generic license

wl-snowy.  Bubo scandiacus.

Owl derives from the old English ulerealted to the Dutch uil and Old high German gwilla and old Norse ugla.

Bubo the genus name is for the eagle owl.

scandiacus-alluding to Scandinavia. 


Ortolan Bunting. Emberiza hortulana.

Both the common name and the specific name of hortulana come via French from Latin horrtulanus from hortulus and diminutive of hortus -garden

The genus name of Emberiza derives from the Old German  Embritz a bunting.


Ovenbird.  Seiurus aurocapilla.

The common name of Oven bird alludes to the shape of their suspended nests.

The genus name of Seiurus derives from Greek seio =to shake +oura=tail.

The specific name of aurocapilla derives from Latin aurum=gold +capillus=capped. 

Ovenbird courtesy of Dick Daniels {http.//carolina birds} CC BY-SA 3.0 unported license. Image taken in Jamaica.

Other Latin words you may come across while reading plant/bird books.

ossus=full of.                              olor=swan                           odontos=tooth

orbiculatus=orbicular leaves         ochroleaucus=yellowish-white

ollua-to kill{by drying}                  onkos-a tumour                   opsis-indicates resemblance

orbis-disk/circular                        opthalmus=an eye              osteon=bone

othone=linen [indicating soft}        ous =ear                            ovalis =oval leaves.

ovata=egg-shaped                      oxyphyllus-sharp pointed leaves. 

obtusifolia=bluntly lobed.             onos-a vessel                      oleum-oil 

oxus-acid {sour leaves}                oinos= wine                        obscurus=dark

officinalis/officinale-sold as a drug at the Apothecary.               ortho-straight.

opis face/appearance-resemblance.                                        orrhos=rump

oinas=pigeon                             obtusa=blunt                        onnos=an Ass

occidentalis-indicates western.    ornatissium=most ornamental.

omphalus=a navel                      ophis=a snake                     ophrys-an orchid

orchoides -orchid like                 osme/azo= smell/odour         oura=tail

obliqua=unequal sided.              oxygona=sharp angles.         ornis=a bird

oxyria/oxys =sharp                    orobus=vetch                       obconica=inverted cone

oligoden-few teethed.                 octo/octa=eight                    ops=face

oeso=to carry 


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