Reviving Unique Words: The Niche of Scientific Names

Reviving Unique Words: The Niche of Scientific Names

By David Nash

The concept of ‘endangered word’ is defined. The possibility of a word being ‘the same
word’ across more than one language allows for recognition of degrees of endangerment of a
word. The rarer a word is cross-linguistically, the more it is at risk of fading away. A minor way
to continue an endangered word, and thereby reduce its endangerment, is to incorporate it into
scientific terminology, in particular into a standard biological (Linnæan) name. Some examples
are given of how scientific borrowing has popularised words from severely disused languages,
and of recent adoption of terms from currently endangered languages.