What Do Dinosaur Names Tell Us About Them?

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What Do Dinosaur Names Tell Us About Them?

Paleontologists have unearthed numerous dinosaur species, and each beast has a unique name. Sometimes, these names are long and hard to pronounce, while others are simple. When looking at or reading dinosaur names, many of us may wonder how scientists came up with these names for prehistoric reptiles. Delve into the facts of what dinosaur names tell us about them.

How Do Dinosaurs Get Their Names?

When paleontologists discover a dinosaur, they primarily name it to indicate key things about the species, such as physical characteristics or behavior. For instance, the Stegosaurus’s name means “armored roof lizard,” which perfectly details its appearance.

Some dinosaurs get their names based on the location where paleontologists unearth them. For example, a paleontologist named the Argentinosaurus partially after the country Argentina upon finding the remains there and concluding the species lived in Argentina.

Another thing dinosaur names tell us about them is who helped to discover the species; some dinosaurs receive their names in honor of the scientist. An example of this would be the Lambeosaurus, which was partially named after Lawrence Lambe, who played a pivotal role in uncovering the species.

What Do Dinosaur Names Mean?

Every dinosaur’s name means something different since it indicates clues about the species. This differs for every dinosaur, as we can only understand what the name means by breaking down the roots; they often come from Latin or Greek words.

For example, numerous dinosaurs—Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus, Brontosaurus—have “saurus” in their name, which translates to “lizard.” This half of a prehistoric reptile’s name tells us a bit about the species.

3 Dinosaurs and Their Names

We’ll break down three dinosaur names and what the roots mean in this exploration of prehistoric names.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

We’ve already got a glimpse into part of the Tyrannosaurus rex’s name since “saurus” means lizard. What about the “tyranno” and “rex” parts? Tyranno comes from Latin for “tyrant,” while “rex” also comes from Latin and means “king.” The T-rex’s name means Tyrant Lizard King, which fits this apex predator.


The Velociraptor was a small, carnivorous dinosaur. Its name comes from the Latin words “velox” and “raptor,” which means swift robber. The Velociraptor was mainly named for its behaviors: It was fast-moving and often stole food from other dinosaurs, which it scavenged for most meals.


Triceratops comes from three Greek words: tri, cera, and ops. “Tri” comes from Greek and Latin and means “three,” while “cera” (kéras in Greek) means horned. Finally, we have “ops,” which also comes from Greek and translates to “face.” When we combine these words, we get Triceratops, or Three-Horned Face.

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