April 18th

Speaking Ancient Greek

Dinosaur names seem odd. They’re polysyllabic, with weird and wonderful combinations of sounds that aren’t always recognizable to modern ears. This is because traditional dinosaur names are derived from ancient Greek, as was the nomenclatural custom of 19th century naturalists. Today, words from popular culture or native peoples around the world are used to spice up and personalize the names of the new dinosaurs we find.

But you don’t have to be so confused when trying to read or understand the names of dinosaurs. Many are constructed with common elements. Here’s a handy list of some of the most popular words you’ll find in Mesozoic monikers:

saurus – lizard (the ancient Greeks had no word for ‘reptile’ or what we call ‘archosaurs’ today)

dino/deino – terrible

don – tooth

mega – giant

bronto – thunder

mimus – mimic

ornitho – bird

ovi – egg

raptor – thief

ceratops – horned


Those should be a good guide to get you started if you’re new to dinosaurs. If you’re an old pro, we want to hear your favorite dinosaur names and what they mean. Share yours with us us on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.