AskDefine | Define genus

Dictionary Definition



1 a general kind of something; "ignore the genus communism"
2 (biology) taxonomic group containing one or more species [also: genera (pl)]

User Contributed Dictionary



From etyl la genus.


  • UK: , /ˈdʒiːnəs/, /"dZi:n@s/


  1. In the context of "biology|taxonomy": a rank in the classification of organisms, below family and above species; a taxon at that rank
    All magnolias belong to the genus Magnolia.
  2. A group with common attributes
  3. A number measuring some aspect of the complexity of any of various manifolds or graphs
  4. Within a definition, a broader category of the defined concept.

Related terms


rank in a taxonomic classification between family and species
taxon at this rank
group with common attributes





  1. a rank in a taxonomic classification, in between family and species.
  2. a taxon at this rank
  3. gender




Cognates include Ancient Greek sc=polytonic, Sanskrit sc=Deva.


  1. birth, origin
  2. kind, type, class
  3. set, group (with common attributes)


Derived terms



  1. gender (grammar: division of nouns and pronouns)

Extensive Definition

A genus (plural: genera, from Latin genus "descent, family, type, gender") is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the classification of living and fossil organisms.
Like almost all other taxonomic units, genera may sometimes be divided into subgenera, singular: subgenus. The largest main taxonomic unit below the genus is the species.
How to more precisely define a genus is a matter of continuing debate, as outlined a few paragraphs below this.

Generic name

Generic name is a part of the scientific name for an organism. It is a name which reflects the classification of the organism by grouping it with other closely similar organisms. The generic name is always Latin, and is the first of the two names in the scientific name (the second is the species). The first letter of the generic name is always capitalized, and the first letter of the specific name is never capitalized. For example, the scientific name for the wolf is Canis lupis. Canis, meaning dog, is the generic name, because the wolf is a canine.

Types and genera

Because of the rules of scientific naming, or "nomenclature", each genus must have a designated type species (see Type (zoology)) which defines the genus; the generic name is permanently associated with the type specimen of its type species. Should this specimen turn out to be assignable to another genus, the genus name linked to it becomes a junior synonym, and the remaining taxa in the now-invalid genus need to be reassessed. See scientific classification and Nomenclature Codes for more details of this system. Also see type genus.

One attempt to define a genus

The rules-of-thumb for delimiting a genus are outlined e.g. in Gill et al. (2005). According to these, a genus should fulfill 3 criteria to be descriptively useful:
  • monophyly - all descendants of an ancestral taxon are grouped together;
  • reasonable compactness - a genus should not be expanded needlessly; and
  • distinctness - in regards of evolutionarily relevant criteria, i.e. ecology, morphology, or biogeography; note that DNA sequences are a consequence rather than a condition of diverging evolutionarily lineages except in cases where they directly inhibit gene flow (e.g. postzygotic barriers).

The transition to modern phylogenetic classification

Neither the ICZN nor the ICBN require such criteria for establishment of a genus, and this is because they are concerned with the rules of nomenclature rather than the rules of taxonomy. The ICZN and ICBN rule books cover the formalities of what makes a description valid.
The three criteria given above are almost always fulfillable for a given clade. However, an example of a situation where at least one criterion is crassly violated no matter what the generic arrangement is the case of the dabbling ducks in the genus Anas. This group is is paraphyletic in regard to the extremely distinct fossil species, moa-nalo. Considering these to be distinct genera (as is usually done) violates criterion 1, including them all in the genus Anas violates criterion 2 and 3, and splitting up the genus Anas so that the mallard and the American black duck are in distinct genera violates criterion 3.

The problem of identical names used for different genera

A genus in one kingdom is allowed to bear a name that is in use as a genus name or other taxon name in another kingdom. Although this is discouraged by both the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature and the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature there are some five thousand such names that are in use in more than one kingdom. For instance, Anura is the name of the order of frogs but also is the name of a genus of plants (although not current: it is a synonym); and Aotus is the genus of golden peas and night monkeys; Oenanthe is the genus of wheatears and water dropworts, and Prunella is the genus of accentors and self-heal.
Within the same kingdom one generic name can apply to only one genus. This explains why the platypus genus is named Ornithorhynchus — George Shaw named it Platypus in 1799, but the name Platypus had already been given to the pinhole borer beetle by Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Herbst in 1793. Names with the same form but applying to different taxa are called homonyms. Since beetles and platypuses are both members of the kingdom Animalia, the name Platypus could not be used for both. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach published the replacement name Ornithorhynchus in 1800.


External links

genus in Afrikaans: Genus
genus in Tosk Albanian: Gattung (Biologie)
genus in Arabic: جنس (أحياء)
genus in Aragonese: Chenero (biolochía)
genus in Bosnian: Rod (biologija)
genus in Breton: Genad
genus in Catalan: Gènere (biologia)
genus in Czech: Rod (biologie)
genus in Welsh: Genws (bioleg)
genus in Danish: Slægt (biologi)
genus in German: Gattung (Biologie)
genus in Estonian: Perekond (bioloogia)
genus in Modern Greek (1453-): Γένος (βιολογία)
genus in Spanish: Género (biología)
genus in Esperanto: Genro (biologio)
genus in Basque: Genero (biologia)
genus in Persian: سرده
genus in French: Genre (biologie)
genus in Western Frisian: Skaai
genus in Irish: Géineas
genus in Galician: Xénero (bioloxía)
genus in Korean: 속 (생물학)
genus in Croatian: Rod (taksonomija)
genus in Indonesian: Genus
genus in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Genere (biologia)
genus in Icelandic: Ættkvísl (flokkunarfræði)
genus in Italian: Genere (tassonomia)
genus in Hebrew: סוג (טקסונומיה)
genus in Javanese: Genus
genus in Luxembourgish: Gattung (Biologie)
genus in Lithuanian: Gentis
genus in Hungarian: Nemzetség (rendszertan)
genus in Maltese: Ġeneru
genus in Malay (macrolanguage): Genus
genus in Dutch: Geslacht (biologie)
genus in Japanese: 属 (分類学)
genus in Norwegian: Slekt (biologi)
genus in Norwegian Nynorsk: Biologisk slekt
genus in Occitan (post 1500): Genre (biologia)
genus in Low German: Geslecht (Biologie)
genus in Polish: Rodzaj (biologia)
genus in Portuguese: Género (biologia)
genus in Romanian: Gen (biologie)
genus in Russian: Род
genus in Sicilian: Gèniri (bioluggìa)
genus in Simple English: Genus
genus in Slovak: Rod (taxonómia)
genus in Slovenian: Rod (biologija)
genus in Serbian: Род (биологија)
genus in Finnish: Suku (biologia)
genus in Swedish: Släkte
genus in Tagalog: Sari
genus in Tamil: பேரினம் (உயிரியல்)
genus in Telugu: ప్రజాతి
genus in Thai: สกุล (ชีววิทยา)
genus in Vietnamese: Chi (sinh học)
genus in Turkish: Cins
genus in Ukrainian: Рід (біологія)
genus in Urdu: جنس
genus in Vlaams: Geslacht (biologie)
genus in Yiddish: מין (ביאלאגיע)
genus in Chinese: 属 (生物)

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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