Sponges (Porifera) come in three body forms - asconoid (vase-shaped), syconoid (pleated vase), and leuconoid (network of chambers, like bath sponges). I was wondering what the etymology of these terms was. Since they are scientific terms, I'm assuming Classical origin, but I don't know enough Greek or Latin to recognize the roots.


3 Answers 3


asco- prefix Lt. < Gk. ἀσκός

Websters: Modern Latin; from Classical Greek askos, wineskin, bladder

syco- prefix Lt. < Gk.

Wordinfo: fig sweet, hollow, pear-shaped, multiple fruit that has numerous tiny seedlike fruits that are eaten fresh or preserved or dried
Reference.com 1885–90; < Neo-Latin < Greek sŷkon fig

leuco- prefix Lt. < Gk.

< Neo-Latin < Greek leukón, noun use of neuter of leukós white


Wiktionary: Of similar form to, but not the same as. Having the likeness of. Suffix appended to various words to make an adjective form.
human → humanoid
sterol → steroid
planet → planetoid

  • The first two terms make sense, but "leuconoid" remains a bit obscure... any thoughts?
    – augurar
    Dec 12, 2013 at 5:22
  • Apparently, for reasons other than that leuconoids are characterized by 'network of chambers, like bath sponges' -- more likely because they look like some "leucons" (whatever they might be). I may update if I find something on that as well.
    – Kris
    Dec 12, 2013 at 5:25
  • A couple of dictionaries define "leucon" as an individual leuconoid sponge, which isn't too illuminating.
    – augurar
    Dec 12, 2013 at 17:02

My Zoology text (Hickman et al., 17th ed.) stated that the name comes from historical accident: the earliest forms of leuconoids that were analyzed happened to be white. If true, it's one more example of scientific nomenclature that should have probably been improved at some point along the way.

  • Do you mean to connect the term leuconoid with the color white?
    – Davo
    Sep 16, 2020 at 16:46
  • 1
    See above comments. Leuco is commonly accepted as a root word that means "white". Sep 16, 2020 at 18:59
  • Ahh, so "leuconoid" probably means "leconid-like", referring to sponges in the genus Leuconia. The genus was so named because its members' spicules are made of calcium carbonate, giving the skeleton a white color.
    – augurar
    Sep 27, 2020 at 8:38
  • "Now in this curious class of animals—the poriferous animals—we find that the simple gelationus body is supported by a skeleton composed of different kinds of earth. In one great group the earth is silica; in another it is the carbonate of lime; in another it is a horny substance. [...] I now place before you animals belonging to this group having a skeleton composed of carbonate of lime, and you see that in consequence they are white. This is the Leuconia nivea, as I have called it." (Grant, 1833)
    – augurar
    Sep 27, 2020 at 8:38

Possibly, the ‘leucon type’ term stem from the fact that one ‘flagellated chamber’ of the complicated canal system seems to represent one simple individual of ‘Leucosolenia’.

  • 1
    What about the other two types? Apr 23, 2020 at 7:21
  • Please note that the accepted answer, while as you imply not being the complete story, contains supporting references. Apr 23, 2020 at 11:26

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