Temperament naming

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Regular temperament names come in two types: common names and systematic names. Common names takes a diversity of sources. Systematic names are rigorously derived from an algorithm. This article focuses on common names.

Temperament and comma naming conventions

State of the art

There was, in general, not a hard rule of naming temperaments, but examples to follow. Some notable features of naming might be confusing to beginners of RTT. Specifically:

  • a name can be shared by a temperament as well as its strong extensions. For example, meantone was defined in the 5-, 7-, 11- and 13-limit, each temperament in the higher limit being a strong extension to the ones in the lower limit.
    • Only the best and most obvious extension may share the original temperament's name.
    • If a temperament does not have an obvious extension, or has multiple competing extensions, each should get a distinct name.
    • Weak extensions should never share the original temperament's name since their structures are very different.

In 2004, Gene Ward Smith outlined a number of examples for reference: Some naming examples. In 2012, Ryan Avella abstracted a convention of naming temperaments: Naming Convention Suggestion. The main takeaway from the threads is:

  • a name should be a common noun (thus written in lowercase), ideally consisting of a single word.

The following practice was established around 2022–2023 when many higher-limit commas were getting named:

  • If a comma is named the "X-isma", then the temperament which tempers out the X-isma in the minimal prime subgroup containing that comma should be named "X-ic" and the temperament which tempers out the X-isma in the minimal prime limit containing that comma should be named "X-ismic". A comma page should ideally always include a mention of both of those temperaments. The temperaments and obvious and/or strong extensions may be discussed either there or on linked-to dedicated pages.
  • It is also valid to use "X-sma" instead of X-isma and "X-smic" instead of X-ismic, with X-ic being unchanged, but X-isma is more common as it is often less awkward to pronounce and spell.

Contemporary rules

It has become evident over time that there is a need to formalize when it is or is not okay to propose and accept names or renames of temperaments and commas, especially as more users contribute and offer input and as those users inevitably become more out-of-sync in their preferences. There is a repeated pattern of wasted energy and effort, that many may find demotivating, when conflict inevitably emerges out of a lack of clear ground rules. Therefore it is important to make clear a set of rules which wiki editors can defer to in cases of such conflicts that feel as though they have reached an impasse.

Conventions for naming commas/temperaments:

  • The name should follow the state of the art, given above.
  • The name should have something to do with the comma/temperament. This is a rule that is often assumed implicitly without mention.
  • Stronger than the above, the name should ideally have a wealth of reasonings supporting its association (ideally uniquely, within reason) with the comma/temperament in question.
  • The name should not cause potential confusion/ambiguity with other names. Note that an important exception to this rule is that closely related temperaments may have highly similar names; this is not uncommon.
  • The name's complexity should loosely reflect the complexity of the comma/temperament, so that very simple names are not exhausted for very complex commas/temperaments, which would later cause issues if one of those names found a simpler and more elegant comma/temperament to be associated with (see also the section on conventions for renaming). Note that "simple" here does not mean low-accuracy, nor high-accuracy, but rather simple in the conceptual sense; roughly how easy would it be for someone to rediscover this comma/temperament, assuming the rediscoverer has no particular interest in the comma/temperament in question? "Elegant" is meant as similar in meaning to "simple" but more in the direction of a potential subjective appraisal of a comma/temperament for unique properties it has.
  • The name must not be offensive, where "offensive" is defined as referring to topics that quite a few would deem controversial and/or where the name is NSFW (not-safe-for-work).
  • The name has a fair amount of consensus (e.g. several people in favour versus 2 against). This is not to be interpreted as iron democratic rule but rather as a significant indicator of a good name, along with other reasons detailed.

Most important of the above points are those on: not being NSFW/inappropriate, lack of ambiguity, compliance with existing naming conventions, and consensus.

It should not come as a surprise to anyone that good reasons for renaming commas/temperaments mostly mirror conventions for renaming them:

Strong reasons for renaming a comma and/or temperament are:

  • The name is inconsistent with the state of the art.
  • The name causes significant confusion/ambiguity with other names. Note that an important exception to this rule is that closely related temperaments/commas/scales may have highly similar names; this is not uncommon.
  • The name can be deemed to be offensive, where offensive is defined as referring to topics that quite a few would deem controversial and/or where the name is NSFW (not-safe-for-work).
  • The name change proposal has a fair amount of consensus (e.g. several people in favour versus 2 against). This is not to be interpreted as iron democratic rule but rather as a significant indicator of a good name, along with other reasons detailed.

Weaker but still good and standard reasons for renaming a comma and/or temperament include:

  • The name is simpler but not so simple as to be absurd and implicatory of many alternate candidates (an example of the latter is "commatic" temperament).
  • The name has reasoning behind it that identifies it as appropriate at least insofar as it identifies the comma as unique within reason.
  • The previous name is fairly new (within the last year).

Therefore, if one finds oneself at an impasse, refer to this work in progress section and see how many bullet points are in favour of a name or rename. With that said...

Every rename proposal must have at least one strong reason. The only time it is acceptable for it not to is if the previous name has very little or no usage and the rename does not cause friction (e.g. the recent proposer wants to change the name and there are no objections).

If there are external references (outside of the wiki) beyond the mere proposal of the name, previous names may stay on the wiki for historical purposes, but should be moved out of the "spotlights" (lead section, infobox, etc.) to avoid the potential interpretation that these names are equally common/standard. It is important to note however that if there is nothing particularly wrong with the old name, then it is standard and common to let the old name coexist with the new name with the spirit that people can use whatever name they prefer.

If, however, a name has received enough usage outside the wiki that a rename would be significantly inconvenient and confusing and/or if there is a very large amount of usage on the wiki so that many people may have seen and remembered the previous name, the previous name should be mentioned in passing towards the beginning of the page for clarity/to avoid confusion and for historical purposes. The only exception to this rule is if the name is NSFW, in which case it should be at the very least moved out of the spotlights if not removed entirely.

This summary of conventions aims to be comprehensive but not exhaustive. Minor reasons may be included if they are abstract in nature rather than overly specific in application.

If you feel something is missing that many would agree on being added and which you do not believe would be controversial to add, please add it. If you feel something should be added but are unsure about how it may be taken, please take to this page's talk page, add your reasonings/arguments and await responses and some form of consensus first. Be patient, this full process may take weeks! And as always, do your best to remain objective, professional and respectful.

Temperament name examples

Amity

Origin: Paul Erlich (2002)

Meaning: A restructuring of the words "acute minor third." The ideal generator for Amity is between a minor third and neutral third.

Augmented

Origin: Paul Erlich and Carl Lumma (2002)

"Augmented" gets its name from its 1/3-octave period, corresponding to an augmented triad.[1]

Ammonite

Origin: Keenan Pepper (2011)

Meaning: Keenan Pepper suggested it was a good name of a weird spiral-shaped animal, for a temperament in the porcupine family (like nautilus)

A-Team

A-Team is a pun on "eighteen," since the 2.9.21 subgroup of A-Team is nearly optimal in 18edo.

Augene

Originally tripletone, in analogy with twintone, but when twintone was renamed pajara Paul Erlich suggested it should be augene, after augmented and Gene Smith.

Avila

Origin: Mike Battaglia, Ron Sword, Ryan Avella (2011)

Meaning: Originally discovered by Ryan by accident while he was reading the mapping for Mavila temperament incorrectly. It is the original spelling of Ryan's surname.

Beatles

Named for the 19\64 generator, since 1964 is the year the Beatlemania swept the world.

Blackwood

Origin: Middle-Path or Pre-Middle-Path

Meaning: Named after Easley Blackwood's 10-out-of-15 maximally even scale.

Breed

Origin: Gene Ward Smith (2004)

Named after Graham Breed. See breedsma for sources.

Catakleismic

The "cata" prefix means "down", and the catakleismic generator is very slightly down from the hanson generator, a temperament called "kleismic" until Paul Erlich decided the name must and shall be changed.

Catler

Named for Jon Catler.

Dicot

Meaning: 3/2 is divided into 2 equal parts, hence "di-". Not sure why "-cot". "-Cot" has been suggested to originate from 'cotyledon,' the name for the embryo of a plant seed.


Diminished and dimipent

Origin: Paul Erlich and Carl Lumma (2002)

"Diminished" gets its name from its 1/4-octave period, corresponding to a diminished seventh chord.[2]

This naming was not immediate, however. Paul initially proposed the name "octo-diminished"[3], which appears to be a reference to Olivier Messiaen's 2nd mode of limited transposition, which is also known as the octatonic or diminished scale; this scale also divides the octave into four equal parts.[4] but soon switched to sometimes using "diminished"[5] and sometimes "octatonic", the latter of which was adopted by Joseph Monzo.[6] Meanwhile, Gene proposed "igor" as a reference to Igor Stravinksy's association with this scale,[7] but this did not catch on. Eventually "octatonic" was rejected for being too generic,[8] while "diminished" was held to convey the 1/4-octave structure of the temperament better,[9] and so "diminished" came to predominate.

As for "dimipent", when Paul released his Middle Path paper, he introduced a naming pattern whereby certain[10] 7-limit extensions to 5-limit temperaments were required to have the same name, except for being suffixed with the numeric prefix "-sept" instead of the numeric prefix "-pent". This applied to three pairs of temperaments:

  • "diminished", which became "dimipent" and "dimisept",
  • "sensi", which became "sensipent" and "sensisept", and
  • "negri", which became "negripent" and "negrisept".

This naming system was unpopular,[11][12] and did not catch on.[13] In the case of negri, both negripent and negrisept fell out of use, and the modern convention of giving strong extensions the exact same name (distinguishing them as necessary with "septimal", etc.) was adopted instead, so both the 5-limit and 7-limit were called "negri". For diminished and sensi, however, these became the names for the 7-limit temperaments, while "dimipent" and "sensipent" stuck as names for the 5-limit temperaments. Because these originally 5-limit-specific names both also became the names for their entire temperament families, we can say that the "-pent" suffix in these two cases has lost its original (and indeed all) meaning.

Confusingly, in Jean-Philippe Rameau's Treatise on Harmony from 1722, he called 2048/2025 the "diminished comma", and so in a way "diminished temperament" should already have been considered taken; the modern name for 2048/2025, the diaschisma, which gives its name to the diaschismic temperament, comes from Hermann von Helmholtz much later, in 1875.[14] The interval 648/625, the modern "diminished comma" by virtue of it being the one diminished temperament makes vanish, has been called the "major diesis" or "greater diesis",[15] and so "major diesic" was also proposed as a name for this temperament.[16] This would have gone along with 128/125 being the "(minor/lesser) diesis" and thus "minor diesic" temperament. Despite this not working out this way (due in part to too many things being named using "diesis"), in the end "diminished" and "augmented" still came out as an opposing pair.

Dominant

Meaning: It's meantone which calls the dominant seventh chord a 4:5:6:7. It is one of the least complex 7-limit extensions of meantone.

Doublewide

Named after a type of mobile home.

Eir

VIxen named it after a healer goddess or valkyrie from the Norse mythology, as it's an extension of freya with the ibnsinma that evokes associations with medicine.

Ennealimmal

Origin: Gene Ward Smith (2001)

Meaning: Ennealimmal has a 1/9-octave period, hence "ennea-"; the period is very close to the large limma, 27/25, hence "limmal".

Ervsec

A name derived from a scale discovered by Erv Wilson and George Secor in the 80's while George was visiting Erv.

Father

Origin: 2000s?

Meaning: A combination of the words "fourth" and "third." This is meant to represent the unification of perfect fourths and major thirds in Father temperament.

Flattone

Origin: Gene Ward Smith

Meaning: A variant of meantone in which the whole tone is flatter than in septimal meantone.

Gersemi

VIxen named it and hnoss after Odr's and Freya's daughters. There is also a word play on 'semi-' that hints at the split of the octave (and other intervals like 18/7, 77/48, 9/8) in half.

Glacial

Origin: Igliashon Jones, Mike Battaglia (2012)

Meaning: Glacial sounds like "Igliashon."

Godzilla

Named by Gene Smith after a Japanese fictional monster; part of the daikaiju series of names for temperaments with an approximate 8/7 as generator.

Gravity

Origin: Mike Battaglia (2011)

Named after its 40/27 "grave fifth" generator. See graviton for sources.

Hanson

Larry Hanson's 34-edo guitar (9\34 generator)

Harry

Derived from a theory that you might be able to play the music of Harry Partch in it without driving him nuts so long as you didn't say that was what you were doing.

Hedgehog

So named because it is in the PORCUPINE family, but different.

Heinz

Named after the fact that 26\57 is a possible generator, and the words "57 varieties" are found on the bottle labels of a popular brand of ketchup called "Heinz", so the connection is based on the presence of the number 57. It does not seem to be related in any way to Heinz Bohlen.

Heimlaug

VIxen named it after a völva (seeress) from the Gull-Þóris saga of Icelanders. It is an extension of freya with the fairytale comma and the ainma, both adding to the mystical theme. The one of prophecy is bolstered by that this extension has benediction as a subtemperament.

Helmholtz

So named because Hermann von Helmholtz proposed 1/8-schisma flattened fifths.

Hnoss

VIxen named it and gersemi after Odr's and Freya's daughters. In 11-limit, they both temper out one comma of odin (9801/9800) and one of freya (41503/41472).

Injera

Origin: Paul Erlich

Meaning: Named after an Ethiopian flatbread because 26edo represents it well, and the Ethiopian alphabet has 26 consonants.

Jamesbond

Named from the fact that the wedgie is ⟨⟨0 0 7 …]]

Keemun

Origin: Herman Miller (2008)

Meaning: Name of a variety of tea which could fit into the same space as "keenan" and replace it.

Keemun (simplified Chinese: 祁门红茶; traditional Chinese: 祁門紅茶; pinyin: qímén hóngchá; literally "Qimen red tea") is a black Chinese tea with a winey and fruity taste, designated as a China Famous Tea. It was given this name in Paul Erlich's Middle Path paper on the suggestion of Herman "Teamouse" Miller, thereby ending the unfortunate practice of calling this temperament, a 7-limit extension of hanson with a much lower accuracy, by the name "kleismic" also.

Mabila

Origin: Gene Ward Smith, Ryan Avella (2011)

Meaning: Named after Mavila temperament due to their similar tunings and scale structure.

Machine

Origin: Mike Battaglia (2011)[17]

Because it sounded like a 4:7:9:11 machine.

Magic

Origin: Graham Breed

Graham named it "magic" by analogy with miracle; he was listening to the Fleetwood Mac song "You Make Loving Fun" that uses the word "miracle" at the time. Later he coined the backronym "multiple approximations generated iteratively and consistently" also by analogy with miracle.

Marvel

Origin: Gene Ward Smith (2003)

Marvel was discovered while investigating slendric temperament, which at the time was called "wonder", and so "marvel" was introduced as an implicit variation on that name; along with miracle, then, there were now three temperaments with names conveying extraordinary goodness, so this began to constitute a temperament naming theme. See the temperament's dedicated page for sources.

Mavila

Origin: Kraig Grady (1990s?)

Meaning: Named after the Chopi village of Mavila in Mozambique, known for their use near-equal heptatonic scales. Nobody can agree on how to pronounce this word.

Meantone

Origin: really really old

Meaning: Named so because it maps the major whole tone (9/8) and the minor whole tone (10/9) to the same interval, which is near the average of the two tones in ideal tunings.

Migration

Meaning: A temperament closely related to mohajira, which means "migrating".

Miracle

Origin: Paul Erlich (May 2001?)

Double meaning: It is a miracle that this scale is so accurate! And it is an acronym "Multiple Integer Ratios Approximated Consistently, Linearly and Evenly."

Mohajira

Origin: Jacques Dudon

Meaning: from Arabic مهاجرة muhājirah which roughly means "migrating".

Mothra

Origin: Gene Ward Smith

Named after a Japanese fictional monster: a daikaiju name for a temperament with ~8/7 generator. Mothra has defeated Godzilla more times than any other daikaiju; the musical meaning of this fact is at best speculative.

Myna

Myna is related to starling, the 126/125 planar temperament, and a myna is a member of the starling family (Sturnidae). Myna is also a play on minor third, the generator.

Negri

Origin: Paul Erlich (2001)

Meaning: Named after John Negri's 10-out-of-19 maximally even scale. See the temperament's dedicated page for sources.

Octacot

Meaning: 3/2 is divided into 8 equal parts, therefore "octa-".

Orgone

Origin: Andrew Heathwaite (2010)

Meaning: An analogy between Wilhelm Reich's proposal for an invisible, ephemeral creative energy and the subtleties of the higher harmonics 7 and 11. Superkleismic can be viewed as orgone extended to the full 11-limit.

Orwell

Origin: Gene Ward Smith (2001)

Meaning: Named after George Orwell's book 1984, because of the generator of 19\84.

Pajara

Origin: Originally (up to 2001) paultone and then twintone, in analogy with meantone, but Paul Erlich didn't like this and suggested pajara, after "Paul, John, and Ara," the three people jamming at his house at some random point in time.

Porcupine

Origin: Herman Miller (1999)

Meaning: Named after Herman Miller's Mizarian Porcupine Overture in 15edo.

Quadritikleismic

Has a kleismic generator, so that (6/5)6 = 3, and four periods per octave, therefore quadri-.

Rishi

When VIxen was proposing it, sruti was its only named rank-2 subtemperament. Rishis (sages) are believed to have created shruti texts.

Rodan

Origin: Gene Ward Smith

Named after a Japanese fictional monster. A daikaiju name, from the 8/7 generator.

Semaphore

Meaning: semi-fourth, i.e. half of a 4/3.

Semisept

Meaning: semi-(septimal major sixth), i.e. half of a 12/7.[18]

Sensi

Originally semisixths, but after it was decided that "bi" or "semi" should be half for periods and "hemi" should be half for generators, that was contracted to sensi.[19]

For more information on the origin of the "-pent" part of "sensipent", see Dimipent.

Slendric

Named after slendro which it resembles very little. (According to Raden Machjar Angga Koesoemadinata's findings regarding Sundanese gamelan and Western findings regarding gamelan in general, real slendro is almost definitely within the 9&17 temperament area.)

Squares

Named from the fact that the wedgie is ⟨⟨4 16 9 …]], which is 22, 42, 32.

Starling

The 126/125 planar temperament, named after Herman Miller's Starling scale.

Srutal

A name proposed by Paul Erlich because the 22-tone MOS looks a lot like the Indian Shruti scale.

Superkleismic

The 6/5 generator is ~322 cents, sharper than the kleismic 6/5, hence "super-". Can be restricted to 2.7.11 (orgone) or 2.5/3.7.11 (magicaltet).

Superpyth

Meaning: fifths are wider than Pythagorean, hence super-Pythagorean or "superpyth"

Tetracot

Meaning: 3/2 is divided into 4 equal parts, hence "tetra-". Not sure why "-cot" (see Dicot above).

Tricot, trident, and trillium

Tricot (53&70) divides 3/1 (tritave) into three equal parts, hence "tri-". Trident (53&229) has a slightly sharper fifth (about 702.2 cents) and trillium (53&441) has a bright (slightly sharp but more accurate than that of trident) fifth (about 702.03 cents).

Triforce

Triforce has 3 periods per octave, hence tri-.

Tritikleismic

Tritikleismic has a kleismic generator, so that (6/5)6 = 3, and 3 periods per octave (therefore tri-.)

Valentine

Named for Robert C Valentine.

Whitewood

Origin: Mike Battaglia (2010)[20]

Meaning: Black keys are to Blackwood as white keys are to Whitewood.

Würschmidt

Named for physicist José Würschmidt.

Notes

  1. Yahoo! Tuning Groups | new equal temperament 5-limit error lattices - "i think carl and i just came to the consensus here that ... the [temperament] you're calling 'diesic' should be called 'augmented'. besides the reasons already given ... the period of the 'augmented' linear temperament is 1/3 octave (thus outlining an augmented triad)." —Paul Erlich
  2. Yahoo! Tuning Groups | new equal temperament 5-limit error lattices - "i think carl and i just came to the consensus here that this should be called 'diminished', and the one you're calling 'diesic' should be called 'augmented'. besides the reasons already given, the period of the 'diminished' linear temperament is 1/4 octave (thus outlining a diminished seventh chord)" —Paul Erlich
  3. Yahoo! Tuning Group | The four before meantone
  4. Yahoo! Tuning Group | Kleismic & co - "Paul [Erlich suggested 'Octo-diminished', since it can be done very well by the 64-et." —Gene Ward Smith]
  5. Yahoo! Tuning Group | Meantone & co
  6. Yahoo! Tuning Group | some output from Graham's cgi - "I think [Joseph] Monz[o] and Paul [Erlich] have been calling it octatonic." —Carl Lumma
  7. Yahoo! Tuning Group | some output from Graham's cgi - "It's a Paul [Erlich] favorite, since it is associated to the octatonic scale of jazz and Stravinsky. We could call it igor, I suppose." —Gene Ward Smith
  8. Yahoo! Tuning Group | Octatonic temperament - "I'm not sure 'octatonic' is a good name for the temperament. There must be other temperaments whose basic scale has 8 notes. Isn't this what folks are calling the 'diminished' temperament on tuning-math?" —Dave Keenan
  9. Yahoo! Tuning Group | Octatonic temperament - "I guess I need a name for this system that doesn't imply there's only eight notes in the tuning. And 'diminished' does suggest the 1/4-octave framework of the scale, so it's a better name than 'octatonic'." —Herman Miller
  10. Yahoo! Tuning Group | A short recording of a semi-improvized 3D comma pump - "The 'sept'/'pent' distinction was according to a rule I never agreed with. I think it was that the TOP tunings had to be the same for the name to be the same. Gene [Ward Smith ignores it. I don't care much either way for established names, but I may have to keep "Sensisept" because it exists in a higher limit. I can see the rule makes some sense if we're talking about temperaments, as I understand them. The existence of the rule may indicate Paul [Erlich] was understanding temperaments [sic] a similar way. But as I understand temperament classes (which is similar to how others understand regular temperaments) the tuning is allowed to vary over a wide range. There are subjective rules I follow when I share names over different limits and we can talk about individual cases if you like. I don't have a fixed definition, or deterministic algorithm, for deciding if two things in different limits are the same, and I don't want one." —Graham Breed]
  11. Yahoo! Tuning Group | Gene's mail server - "Anyway, since these names are so ugly, does anyone have suggestions for renaming them (Dimipent, Dimisept, Negripent, Negrisept, Sensipent, Sensisept) that preserves their approximate alphabetical location?" —Paul Erlich
  12. Yahoo! Tuning Group | 98 named 7-limit temperaments - Shows that there was some support for the -sept prefix from Gene Ward Smith still at this time.
  13. Yahoo! Tuning Group | Subgroup temperament naming - "The thing we're doing now is analogous to Paul [Erlich]'s having different names for 'negripent' and 'negrisept' and such, which also didn't catch on." —Mike Battaglia
  14. Yahoo! Tuning Groups | Diaschisma article
  15. Diesis
  16. Yahoo! Tuning Groups | Kleismic & co
  17. Yahoo! Tuning Group | Ridiculously awesome 6&11 2.3.7.11.13 subgroup temperament
  18. Evidence for this interpretation can be found here, though the writer does not confirm it: Yahoo! Tuning Group | Complete Rank 2 Temperament Searches
  19. Temperament names "The idea here is to use 'hemi' only when the generator is split in towo, not when the period is split in two." —Gene Ward Smith
  20. Yahoo! Tuning Group | 7&14 temperament - 14 out of 35