I'm studying some old plant cultivar names. One of the rules for botanical latin is that if an epithet is a latin adjective, it has to agree with the gender of the genus. I'm not sure how to apply this to an epithet that contains multiple adjectives, either separately or hyphenated.

For a feminine genus (ending in -a), what would be the correct way to decline the following?

  • "Albo Lineata". Should the "Albo" be "Alba", so that it's also feminine? Or does only the last adjective need to be the correct gender?
  • "Albo-lineata". Is this treated differently from the case above because of the hyphen? Should it be Alba, or does that not matter because it's combined with another word?
  • "Albolineata". I assume the "albo" part shouldn't be changed here because it's in the middle of a word, right? Even though the word is originally a compound of two adjectives of different genders?

In summary, my question is: how do you decline multiple adjectives? And are the rules different if those adjectives are separate, hyphenated, or compounded into one word?

Edit to clarify: These are cultivar names, not species. As such, they need to follow the ICNCP rather than the ICN. That code allows for multiple-word and hyphenated names (as well as names in languages other than Latin). But it has a rule that if a name is an adjective in Latin form, then it must match the gender of the genus.

1 Answer 1


None of the forms you suggest would be correct, because they are all in violation of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants, Division II, Chapter VIII, Article 60.10, which states:

Adjectival epithets that combine elements derived from two or more Greek or Latin words are to be compounded as follows:

A noun or adjective in a non-final position appears as a compounding form generally obtained by

(a) removing the case ending of the genitive singular (Latin ‑ae, ‑i, ‑us, ‑is; transcribed Greek ‑ou, ‑os, ‑es, ‑as, ‑ous and its equivalent ‑eos) and

(b) before a consonant, adding a connecting vowel (‑i- for Latin elements, ‑o- for Greek elements).

The correct form would therefore be albilineata.

Also see the following article 60.11, which admonishes you not to use hyphens except under certain circumstances which do not apply here.

I realise the form albolineata is around, but it does not conform to the official rules, nor is it good Latin.

You did ask this on a website about Latin, so a few remarks might be in order regarding what Latin grammar has to say about this, keeping in mind that botanical nomenclature is a highly formalised system based on Latin (and Greek), which has a rather loose relationship with the actual language.

  • When you have several adjectives modifying a noun, they all have to be in the same gender as (“agree with”) the noun. That would be alba (et) lineata.
  • Two adjectives are probably not the appropriate way to express your idea, as your plant is presumably not white and striped, but white-striped. You could say albo lineata, where albo would be a substantivized neutral adjective (album) in the ablative. I do not think a compound adjective albilineata would be good classical style.
  • Latin does have its share of compound adjectives. In that case the first part is usually a noun, although adjectives also occur. Either way the first part is not inflected, but typically uses the connecting vowel i; the compound as a whole is, of course, declined as usual. Examples: mortifer (death-bringing, from mors; that the form morti would be the dative singular is irrelevant); levisomnus (lightly sleeping, from levis, a hapax legomenon in Lucretius).
  • Thanks for the information. These names are specifically being used for cultivars, not species - the ICNCP for cultivated plants is more lenient than the ICN and it does allow multi-word and hyphenated names (as well as names in languages other than Latin).The main specific rule it has for names in Latin form is that they must match the gender of the genus. So I'm trying to figure out the minimal changes that would be required to make these names correct according to the ICNCP, but not necessarily the ICN.
    – Avery
    Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 11:21
  • @Avery in that case I would still suggest that you go with 'Albilineata', but as you have more freedom, you could also say 'Alba Lineata' (but it means white, striped) or 'Albo Lineata' (strikes me as good, but Albo is no adjective here, it means "white colour"). As far as I'm concerned, it doesn't matter grammatically whether you write a compound word with our without hyphen. Commented Apr 2, 2022 at 22:11
  • Thank you! So 'Alba lineata' would mean roughly "white and striped", and 'Albo lineata' would mean more like "white which is striped"?
    – Avery
    Commented Apr 3, 2022 at 7:21

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