There are several criteria which are used to name viruses. The naming criteria include;

  1. Virus morphology
  • corona= crown-like
  • rabdo= rod-like
  • arena= sand-like
  • toga= cloak
  • rota= wheel
  • pico= small (greek)
  • parvo= small (latin)
  • orbi= ring
  • calici= cup-like
  • toro= donut shaped

3. Location of the virus in the host’s body

  • Adeno= gland
  • Entero= alimentary
  • Rhino= upper respiratory tract
  • myxo= mucous
  • pneumo= air

3. Type of lesion or disease

  • pox= smallpox
  • flavi= yellow fever
  • morbilli= disease
  • herpes= creeping
  • aphtho= vesicle

4. Virus enzymes

  • retro= reverse transcriptase

5. Abbreviations

  • papova= papilloma polyoma vacuolating
  • reo= respiratory enteric orphan

6. Geographical location

  •  bunya= bunyamwera in Uganda
  •  Sendai virus, Coxsackie virus

7. How they were originally thought to be contracted

  • dengue virus (“evil spirit”), influenza virus (the “influence” of bad air)

Main rules for the correct spelling of names of viruses and related agents:
The name of the order always ends in the suffix –virales and is written in italics and the first letter is capitalized.
The name of the family always ends in the suffix –viridae and is written in italics and the first letter is capitalized.
The name of the subfamily always ends in the suffix –virinae and is written in italics and the first letter is capitalized.
The name of the genus always ends in the suffix –virus and is written in italics and the first letter is capitalized.

For instance:
– Order Mononegavirales
– Family Paramyxoviridae
– Subfamily Paramyxovirinae
– Genus Morbillivirus

This nomenclature corresponds to the guidelines proposed by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV).

For many viruses, the family is the maximum taxonomic level reached.

Subviral Agents
The same rules also apply to the classification of viroids. The formal way to write the name
of a viroid is as follows:
– The word viroide for the species.
– The suffix viroid for the genus.
– The suffix viroinae for the subfamilies and
– The suffix viroidae for the families.