11 Naughty-Sounding Scientific Names (and What They Really Mean)

If someone were to mention the word 'Fartulum' to you, a snail probably wouldn't be the first thing that came to mind.
If someone were to mention the word 'Fartulum' to you, a snail probably wouldn't be the first thing that came to mind. / Mix and Match Studio / 500px/Getty Images (shocked woman), Justin Dodd/Mental Floss (speech bubble)

It’s a big world of flora and fauna out there, and scientists need to classify and label it. They’ve come up with a lot of terms that are humorous on purpose (Ytu brutus, Inglorious mediocris, Roberthoffstetteria nationalgeographica, etc.) but there are a few that are perfectly innocent Latin or Greekisms that just happen to sound like something else.

Are you ready to get immature? Here are 11 naughty-sounding scientific names and what they really mean.

1. Fartulum

This genus of snails was named for their cylindrical shells that look like tiny sausages. It comes from Latin farcire, “to stuff.” A fartum is a stuffed thing, and a fartulum is a little stuffed thing, a.k.a. a tiny sausage. It would make an excellent science fair project topic for a second-grader.

2. Turdus maximus

A Tibetan blackbird sitting on a branch.
The Tibetan blackbird. / Imran Shah, Wikimedia Commons // CC by SA 2.0

Turdus is a genus of birds called thrushes (it means “thrush” in Latin). Maximus means “biggest” or “greatest.” This Turdus maximus, a.k.a. Tibetan blackbird, is a beauty, don’t you think?

3. Colon asperatum

The Colon genus of beetles originally got its name from kolon, the Greek word for “limb” or “joint.” While asperatum brings to mind inhaling, it actually means roughened, from the Latin asper, for “rough.” Just a rough joint here. No reason to giggle.

4. Bugeranus

A gray, black, and white bird
The wattled crane. / Magalhães, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Bugeranus is a genus with only one species, the Bugeranus carunculata or wattled crane. Bugeranus comes from the Greek bous (“ox”), and geranus (“crane”). This wading bird is also known as Grus carunculata, a more widely used but much less funny scientific name.

5. Arses insularis

The ochre-collared monarch is named for Arses, the ancient king of Persia. This bird lives in the islands (insulae in Latin) of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. Isn’t it regal-looking? A real royal arses.

6. Pinus rigida

The pitch pine is a very sturdy pine tree native to the eastern U.S.

7. Texananus areolatus

In Latin, an areola was a small open space, like a garden or courtyard. In botany, areolatus is used to describe patterns of small clearings or spots. The -anus suffix in Latin makes an adjective out of a place. If you’re from Rome, you’re Romanus. If you’re from Texas, like this spotted leafcutter, you are Texananus.

8. Turdus migratorius

Birds at the Central Park in New York City
An American Robin. / Anadolu Agency/GettyImages

Behold the American robin, a migratory thrush. This Turdus gets around.

9. Botryotinia fuckeliana

The Botryotinia genus name of these fungi comes from botrus, ancient Greek for “cluster of grapes.” The species name honors famous German mycologist Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Leopold Fuckel.

10. Dorcus titanus

A giant stag beetle
A giant stag beetle. / Hectonichus, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

We call this the giant stag beetle because it looks like it has horns. Dorcus is Latin for “antelope.” This Dorcus is not to be messed with.

11. Poospiza hypochondria

The rufous-sided warbling finch may have some worries about its health (it is a threatened species), but hypochondria comes from the Greek for “under the ribs,” where this beauty has a lovely red marking. As for Poospiza, it comes from poa, ancient Greek for “grass,” and spiza, meaning “finch.”

A version of this story ran in 2014; it has been updated for 2023.