Six species of kinglets occupy the northern hemisphere. The name kinglet is related to a story told in Pliny the Elder‘s Naturalis Historia in which a contest is held between birds where the one that could fly highest would be made king. The eagle was the bird that flew the highest, until a small bird ejected from its feathers and flew even higher. It is contested whether this was a wren or a kinglet, but as the highest flyer would become the king of birds it is thought to be a kinglet, the name being the diminuitive of king. Also, since kinglets are blessed with a striking crown they were thought to be the kings of birds, again kinglet referring to their diminutive stature. Regulus is derived from Latin rex = king, and -ulus = diminutive suffix.
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet – Regulus calendula = Glowing Kinglet – calendula = glowing, from caleo = to glow, to be warm;
- Common Firecrest – Regulus ignicapilla = Fire-capped Kinglet – from Latin ignis = fire, and -capilus = capped;
- Madeira Firecrest – Regulus madeirensis = Madeira Kinglet – for Madeira;
- Golden-crowned Kinglet – Regulus satrapa = Governor Kinglet – from Old Persian šaθrapāvan = protector of the province, via Greek σατράπης (satrápēs);
- Flamecrest – Regulus goodfellowi = Goodfellow’s Kinglet – for English ornithologist Walter Goodfellow;
- Goldcrest – Regulus regulus = Kinglet – tautonym of regulus.
Since the introduction of the binomial system, Regulus regulus has had a variety of names, including Motacilla Regulus (Linnaeus), Sylvia Regulus (Pennant), Regulus cristatus (Dresser), Regulus flavicapillus (Naumann) Regulus auricapillus (Meyer) and Regulus vulgaris (Olphe-Galliard), with Regulus always part of the binomial. French naturalist George Cuvier was the first to use it as a genus in his 1800 Leçons d’anatomie comparée, and Linnaeus the first to use it as a specific in his 1758 Systema Naturae10, creating the protonym Motacilla Regulus. Austrian ornithologist C.H. Othmar Reiser seems to have been the first to put the two together as Regulus regulus in his 1894 Ornis Balcanica.
For centuries Goldcrest was known under an adjectival moniker. It was already featured in John Ray‘s Ornithologiæ libri tres, edited mainly from notes by Francis Willughby and published in 1676, where it possibly gets the first mention in the English language, as ‘golden-crown’d Wren’. The golden crest or crown has featured as part of the name for a long time. It has been described as Golden Crested Warbler, Golden Crested Wren, Golden Crowned Wren, Golden Crested Regulus. Goldcrest must have been a synonym used more widely, though only by the mid-twentieth century was it used as an official name. Even Ernst Hartert and colleagues still talk about Golden-crested Wren in the 1912 Hand-List of British Birds. It wasn’t until Harry Forbes Witherby‘s 1941 Check-list of British Birds that the shortened Goldcrest was used officially. Of the earlier ornithologists only Henry Seebohm used Goldcrest in his 1883 History of British Birds.
- IS: Glókollur = shiny crown – glóa = shining, kollr = crown;
- NO: Fuglekonge = kingbird – fugle = bird, konge = king;
- SV: Kungsfågel = kingbird – kung = king, fågel = bird;
- DA: Fuglekonge = kingbird – fugle = bird, konge = king;
- NL: Goudhaan(tje) = (little) golden-rooster – goud = gold, haan = cockerel, rooster, -tje = diminutive suffix;
- FY: Goudtúfke = gold-tuft – goud = gold, túfe = crest, -ke = diminutive suffix;
- DE: Wintergoldhänchen = winter little golden-rooster – winter = winter, gold = gold, hahn = cockerel, rooster, -chen = diminutive suffix.
- BR: Dreolan kabell aour = gold-capped wren – dreolan = wren, kabell = hat, aour = gold;
- CY: Dryw eurben = gold-crested wren – dryw = wren, aur = gold, ben = top, head;
- GA: Cíorbhuí = yellowcrest – cíor = crest, buí = yellow;
- GD: Crìonag bhuidhe = yellowcrest (?) – crìon perhaps from cìrean = crest, -ach = suffix, buidhe = yellow.
- FI: Hippiäinen = little mitre – hiippa = mitre, -iäinen = (double) diminutive suffix;
- ET: Pöialpoiss = Tom Thumb – pöial = thumb, poiss = boy;
- HU: Sárgafejű királyka = yellow-headed kinglet – sárga = yellow, fejű = head, király = king, -ka = diminutive suffix.
- LT: Nykštukas = Tom Thumb – nykšti = thumb, -ukas = diminutive suffix;
- LV: Zeltgalvītis = little golden-head – zelts = gold, galv = head, -ītis = diminutive suffix.
- RU: Желтоголовый королёк = yellow-headed kinglet – жёлтый = yellow, голова = head, король = king, -ёк = diminutive suffix;
- PL: Mysikrólik = mousy kinglet – mysi = mouse or mouse grey, król = king, -ik = diminutive suffix;
- BE: Жоўтагаловы каралёк = yellow-headed kinglet – жоўта = yellow, галовы = head, кароль = king, -ёк = diminutive suffix;
- UK: Золотомушка жовточуба = yellow-crowned golden speckle – золото = gold, мушка = speckle, dot, жовтий = yellow, чуб = crown, -а = suffix;
- CS: Králíček obecný = common kinglet – král = king, -íček = diminutive suffix, obecný = general;
- SK: Králik zlatohlavý = golden-headed kinglet – král = king, -ik = diminutive suffix, zlato = gold, hlava = head;
- SL: Rumenoglávi kraljiček = yellow-headed kinglet – rumeno = yellow, glava = head, kralj = king, -iček = diminutive suffix;
- HR: Zlatoglavi kraljić = golden-headed kinglet – zlato = gold, glavi = head, kralj = king, -ić = diminutive suffix;
- BG: Жълтоглаво кралче = yellow-headed kinglet – жълто = yellow, глава = head, крал = king, -че = diminutive suffix.
- FR: Roitelet huppé = crested kinglet – roi = king, -(el)et = (double) diminutive suffix, huppé = crested;
- IT: Regolo = kinglet – re = king, g = interfix, -olo = diminutive suffix;
- RO: Aușel nordic = tiny northern bird – aușel = tiny bird (likely from Latin avus contracted to au with -uș diminutive suffix, -el = diminutive suffix), nordic = northern;
- PT: Estrelinha-de-poupa = crested little star – estrela = star, -inha = diminutive suffix, poupa = crested;
- ES: Reyezuelo sencillo = plain kinglet – rey = king, -ezuelo = diminutive suffix, sencillo = simple, plain.
- SQ: Mbretëthi = kingbird – mbret = king, ë = evanescent letter, -thi = article.
- Χρυσοβασιλίσκος = golden kinglet – χρυσο- = golden (prefix), βασιλιάς = king, -σκος = diminutive suffix.
Firecrest has undergone a similar journey to Goldcrest, being the generally less common sister species. The only languages where the name is unrelated to Goldcrest are Polish (reference to candle, torch) and Italian (reference to flower).
- IS: Gullkollur = golden crown – gull = gold, kollr = crown;
- NO: Rødtoppfuglekonge = red-crowned kingbird – rød = red, topp = peak, summit, fugle = bird, konge = king;
- SV: Brandkronad kungsfågel = fire-crowned kingbird – brand = fire, kronad = crowned, kung = king, fågel = bird)
- DA: Rødtoppet fuglekonge = red-crowned kingbird – rød = red, toppet = peak, fugle = bird, konge = king;
- NL: Vuurgoudhaan(tje) = fire golden-rooster – vuur = fire, goud = gold, haan = cockerel, rooster, -tje = diminutive suffix;
- FY: Fjoertúfke = fire-tuft – fjoer = fire, túf = tuft, -ke = diminutive suffix;
- DE: Sommergoldhähnchen = summer golden-rooster – sommer = summer, gold = gold, hahn = cockerel, rooster, -chen = diminutive suffix;
- ET: Lääne-pöialpoiss = Western Tom Thumb – lääne = western, pöial = thumb, poiss = boy;
- FI: Tulipäähippiäinen = fire-headed little mitre – tuli = fire, pää = head, hiippa = mitre, -iäinen = (double) diminutive suffix;
- HU: Tüzesfejű királyka = fire-headed kinglet – tüze = fire, fejű = head, király = king, -ka = diminutive suffix;
- SQ: Mbretëthi vetullbardhë = white-eyebrowed kingbird – vetull = eyebrow, bardhë = white, mbret = king, ë = evanescent letter, -thi = article;
- RU: Красноголовый королёк = red-headed kinglet – kрасный = red, голова = head, король = king, -ёк = diminutive suffix;
- PL: Zniczek = little torch – znicz = candle, torch, -ek = diminutive suffix;
- CS: Králícek ohnivý = fiery kinglet – král = king, -íček = diminutive suffix, ohnivý = fiery;
- SK: Králik ohnivohlavý = fire-headed kinglet – král = king, -ik = diminutive suffix, ohnivo = fiery, hlava = head;
- HR: Vatroglavi kraljić = fire-headed kinglet – vatro = fire, glavi = head, kralj = king, -ić = diminutive suffix;
- CY: Dryw penfflamgoch = flame-red crested wren – dryw = wren, pen = head, fflam = flame, goch = red;
- GA: Lasairchíor = flamecrest – lasair = flame, cíor = crest;
- LT: Baltabruvis nykštukas = white-browed Tom Thumb – balta = white, bruvis = brow, nykšti = thumb, -ukas = diminutive suffix;
- FR: Roitelet à triple bandeau = triple-banded kinglet – roi = king, -(el)et = (double) diminutive suffix, triple = triple, bandeau = headband;
- IT: Fiorrancino = orange flower – fiore = flower, arancio = orange;
- PT: Estrelinha-de-cabeça-listada = stripy headed little star – estrela = star, -inha = diminutive suffix, cabeça = head, listada = striped;
- ES: Reyezuelo listado = striped kinglet – rey = king, -ezuelo = diminutive suffix, listado = striped.