Definition of subspecies in US English:


(also ssp., subsp.)


  • A taxonomic category that ranks below species, usually a fairly permanent geographically isolated race. Subspecies are designated by a Latin trinomial, e.g., (in zoology) Ursus arctos horribilis or (in botany) Beta vulgaris subsp. crassa.

    Compare with form (sense 2 of the noun) and variety (sense 2)
    • ‘For the data analysis, subspecies and varieties were treated as full species.’
    • ‘At the time, it was thought that all the subspecies were separated geographically, at least on the breeding grounds if not entirely in winter.’
    • ‘You can have subspecies, but humans are clearly not a subspecies of chimp.’
    • ‘Should the subspecies be considered endangered, when the species itself is not?’
    • ‘Japan's Iriomote cat was recently demoted from a distinct species to an island subspecies of leopard cat.’