AskDefine | Define taxonomy

Dictionary Definition



1 a classification of organisms into groups based on similarities of structure or origin etc
2 (biology) study of the general principles of scientific classification
3 practice of classifying plants and animals according to their presumed natural relationships

User Contributed Dictionary



From sc=Grek + sc=Grek, from sc=Grek from sc=Grek.


  1. In the context of "systematics|uncountable": The science of finding, describing, classifying and naming organisms.
  2. The classification in a hierarchical system.


the science of finding, describing, classifying and naming organisms
  • Hungarian: rendszertan, taxonómia
  • Japanese: 分類学
  • Russian: таксономия
the classification in a hierarchical system
  • Hungarian: osztályozás
  • Japanese: 分類法
  • Russian: систематика

Extensive Definition

Taxonomy is the practice and science of classification. The word comes from the Greek , taxis, 'order' + , nomos, 'law' or 'science'. Taxonomies, or taxonomic schemes, are composed of taxonomic units known as taxa (singular taxon), or kinds of things that are arranged frequently in a hierarchical structure, typically related by subtype-supertype relationships, also called parent-child relationships. In such a subtype-supertype relationship the subtype kind of thing has by definition the same constraints as the supertype kind of thing plus one or more additional constraints. For example, car is a subtype of vehicle. So any car is also a vehicle, but not every vehicle is a car. Therefore, a thing needs to satisfy more constraints to be a car than to be a vehicle.


Originally the term taxonomy referred to the classifying of living organisms like cats (now known as alpha taxonomy); however, the term is now applied in a wider, more general sense and now may refer to a classification of things, as well as to the principles underlying such a classification.
Almost anything — animate objects, inanimate objects, places, concepts, events, properties, and relationships — may be classified according to some taxonomic scheme.
The term taxonomy may also apply to relationship schemes other than parent-child hierarchies, such as network structures with other types of relationships. Taxonomies may include single children with multi-parents, for example, "Car" might appear with both parents "Vehicle" and "Steel Mechanisms"; to some however, this merely means that 'car' is a part of several different taxonomies.
A taxonomy might also be a simple organization of kinds of things into groups, or even an alphabetical list. However, the term vocabulary is more appropriate for such a list. In current usage within "Knowledge Management", taxonomies are seen as less broad than ontologies as ontologies apply a larger variety of relation types.
Mathematically, a hierarchical taxonomy is a tree structure of classifications for a given set of objects. It is also named Containment hierarchy. At the top of this structure is a single classification, the root node, that applies to all objects. Nodes below this root are more specific classifications that apply to subsets of the total set of classified objects. So for instance, in common schemes of scientific classification of organisms, the root is called "Organism" followed by nodes for the taxonomic ranks: Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, etc.

Taxonomy and mental classification

Some have argued that the human mind naturally organizes its knowledge of the world into such systems. This view is often based on the epistemology of Immanuel Kant. Anthropologists have observed that taxonomies are generally embedded in local cultural and social systems, and serve various social functions. Perhaps the most well-known and influential study of folk taxonomies is Émile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.

Various taxonomies

In phylogenetic taxonomy (or cladistic taxonomy), organisms are classified into clades, which are discovered by grouping taxa using derived traits. By using clades as the criteria for separation, cladistic taxonomy, using cladograms, can categorize taxa into unranked groups.
In numerical taxonomy or taximetrics, the field of solving or best-fitting of numerical equations that characterize all measurable quantities of a set of objects is called cluster analysis.

Non-scientific taxonomy

Other taxonomies, such as those analyzed by Durkheim and Lévi-Strauss, are sometimes called folk taxonomies to distinguish them from scientific taxonomies that claim to be disembedded from social relations and thus objective and universal.
The neologism folksonomy should not be confused with "folk taxonomy" (though it is obviously a contraction of the two words). Those who support scientific taxonomies have recently criticized folksonomies by dubbing them "fauxonomies" (French word "faux" means "false").
The phrase "enterprise taxonomy" is used in business to describe a very limited form of taxonomy used only within one organization. An example would be a certain method of classifying trees as "Type A", "Type B" and "Type C" used only by a certain lumber company for categorising log shipments.

See also

taxonomy in Arabic: علم التصنيف
taxonomy in Bosnian: Taksonomija
taxonomy in Breton: Taksinomiezh
taxonomy in Bulgarian: Таксономия
taxonomy in Catalan: Taxonomia
taxonomy in Czech: Taxonomie
taxonomy in Danish: Taksonomi
taxonomy in German: Taxonomie
taxonomy in Estonian: Taksonoomia
taxonomy in Modern Greek (1453-): Συστηματική ταξινόμηση
taxonomy in Spanish: Taxonomía
taxonomy in Esperanto: Taksonomio
taxonomy in French: Taxinomie
taxonomy in Western Frisian: Taksonomy
taxonomy in Galician: Taxonomía
taxonomy in Korean: 분류학
taxonomy in Croatian: Taksonomija
taxonomy in Indonesian: Taksonomi
taxonomy in Italian: Tassonomia
taxonomy in Hebrew: טקסונומיה
taxonomy in Latin: Taxinomia
taxonomy in Lithuanian: Taksonomija
taxonomy in Ligurian: Taxonomïa
taxonomy in Limburgan: Taxonomie
taxonomy in Hungarian: Rendszertan
taxonomy in Malay (macrolanguage): Taksonomi
taxonomy in Dutch: Taxonomie
taxonomy in Japanese: 分類学
taxonomy in Norwegian: Taksonomi
taxonomy in Occitan (post 1500): Taxinomia
taxonomy in Polish: Taksonomia
taxonomy in Portuguese: Taxonomia
taxonomy in Romanian: Taxonomie
taxonomy in Russian: Таксономия
taxonomy in Sicilian: Tassinumìa
taxonomy in Simple English: Taxonomy
taxonomy in Slovak: Taxonómia (biológia)
taxonomy in Slovenian: Taksonomija
taxonomy in Serbian: Таксономија
taxonomy in Serbo-Croatian: Taksonomija
taxonomy in Finnish: Taksonomia
taxonomy in Swedish: Taxonomi
taxonomy in Thai: อนุกรมวิธาน
taxonomy in Vietnamese: Phân loại học
taxonomy in Turkish: Taksonomi
taxonomy in Ukrainian: Таксономія
taxonomy in Yiddish: טאקסאנאמיע
taxonomy in Chinese: 分类学

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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