Background. Regardless using a rank-based or a phylogenetic nomenclature code, the use of Latinized binomens to describe the extant and extinct species has been essential. Ever since the times of Linnaeus, the use of Latinized Greek names has been a common practice both for neontologists and paleontologists.
Methods. I critically analyzed the most common Greek words used as taxa names in the chelonian literature to establish their etymology and check whether the transliteration process has been done correctly. I also compared the current guidelines for the latinisation of Greek words recommended by the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature, with other alternative systems for the transformation of names formed in the Greek alphabet into Latin-based languages.
Results. The preliminary results show that some Greek words (e.g. Chelone, Emys) dominate the chelonian nomenclature, but the history of the application of many of those names is intriguing. The use of Greek words is quite common in turtle taxa names when the name describes physical properties of the animal (size, shape, colour). However, several unfortunate examples exist, as some quite successful and famous names contain misspellings or poor choice of words that resulted in meanings opposite from the ones intended by the authors.
Discussion. Naming species is an integral part of the research of both neontologists and palaeontologists, but the application of Greek words to life sciences is even far more extensive, applied to numerous terminologies as well. Forming a proper name for a taxon could aid significantly to the communication and interpretation of the scientific results. Publishing a new name requires a sense of responsibility as well, as the formation of a taxon name is a unique linguistic procedure. But in the end, to add a taxonomic side to the old shakespearean question, is not the name that is important, but the information it conveys. That which we call a turtle by any other name would be as unique.