I've thought about creating a new tag for etymology on a number of occasions, but have always hesitated to do so.

I've seen a number of questions on Bio.SE where etymology is specifically asked about (e.g., here, here and here) or strongly referenced (e.g., here or here).

I've seen the terminology tag employed in some of these instances, which I find appropriate, but the true focus of the question or answer is sometimes more specifically etymological.

However, the English.SE site is already a valid place to submit etymology questions, and since etymology is more language-focused, would this tag be off-topic here?

My opinion is no, an etymology tag would be on topic and would possibly garner better response from fellow scientists (vs. those stinkin linguists :p).

I'm interested in other's opinions.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Can you explain why the tag terminology would not include etymology as well? $\endgroup$
    Jan 5, 2017 at 18:39
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG well it does. But human biology technically includes human physiology, neuroscience includes brain, anatomy includes human anatomy, etc. As in these other cases, "etymology" is unique/more specific -- word etymology is more specific (and different from) word meaning (which the terminology tag description specifies as its usage). So really, an etymology tag would just be more specific for those looking strictly for etymological questions/answers. However, as I already said, maybe we want to leave that for English.SE? $\endgroup$ Jan 8, 2017 at 5:40

2 Answers 2


To me, tags are created ad-hoc at SE-sites when there is a need for them. The point of them is to meaningfully categorize questions, and relate questions with similar subjects. It is true that we have tags at different hierarchical levels, and e.g. many specialized tags under . However, it is rather pointless to create specialized sub-tags if there are few questions using the main tag, at the higher hierarchical level. They will also give the question lower visibility, compared to more general and generic tags.

In this case, in a sense covers etymology, but it is used rather unfrequently. If you can find e.g 10-15 question on the site where you think that the tag 'etymology' would be appropriate and useful, I see no problems with creating it (and later applying it to the relevant questions). 'Etymology' is not a biological term though, but we have other non-biological tags as well. If there aren't a number of questions where it might fit, I don't really see the point of creating it. We have many seldomly used tags that need to be cleaned up either way.

General advice on tagging at StackExchange can be found is this meta post.

  • $\begingroup$ I guess this raises a question, then, about best practices. Do we require a standard number of questions that should exist under a topic before creating a new tag is considered appropriate? If not, what should that standard be? 10-15 seems arbitrary, but not unreasonable. I wonder what others' opinions about that are ... perhaps I should start a new question? $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2017 at 19:19
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @theforestecologist I don't think there will ever be a standard, fixed number. And little will stop you from creating new tags, but users and moderatorss might remove irrelevant ones. There is little to gain from a huge number of tags that are used by a handful of questions. My suggestion was mostly intended as a heuristic guideline; if you haven't seen or cannot find 10+ questions where the tag would be useful, it is probably not necessary. $\endgroup$ Jan 18, 2017 at 20:03

I finally decided it was useful to create the tag, and I did so a few days ago. I easily added the tag to 18 posts, and I'm sure numerous more posts could (and will) get tagged with .

There are now > 360 tags on Bio.SE with less questions representing them than (which has been used on 19 posts).

Thanks to @fileunderwater for input.

  • $\begingroup$ As of 2022-02-10: 55 posts are tagged with the etymology tag, and about an equal number exist that should likely currently be edited to receive the tag (e.g., search for -[etymology] etymology) -- I'll slowly start this process so as not to be disruptive. This ~100 posts represents 0.003 of BIO.SE posts. The current 55 tags make this the 234th most common tag on the site, but accounting for the needed edits/additions places the tag in the top 150. There are now currently ~500 more tags used less commonly than etymology on the site. $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2022 at 17:40
  • $\begingroup$ I've added the above comment to help paint a longitudinal trend of how this tag has played out. Minimal posts exist debating at what threshold tags should be created and none to my knowledge have actually tracked a debatable tag. I hope this post can better serve as a reference point when debating/deciding whether new tags should be created/maintained. (for example, recently this post) $\endgroup$ Feb 10, 2022 at 17:44

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .