The Naming of Things: Spinner Dolphins

The name “Spinner Dolphin” is even more on the nose than you might think.

Everyone knows where the Spinner Dolphin gets their name from right? They spin! More specifically, the Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris) leaps and spins unlike any other dolphin, or cetacean for that matter.

Photo by Gary Sutton

When a Spinner Dolphin jumps out of the water they rotate on their horizontal axis (picture a rotisserie) instead of that “tired” old dolphin flippity flip 😉 It really is something to see, so it’s no wonder they got their common name after their awesome ability. Their scientific name on the other hand is a little less wondrous.


Spinners belong to the genus Stenella, a Latin version of the Greek word for “narrow.” This is likely in reference to the long and narrow beaks that are characteristic of all members of this genus (which also includes Spotted Dolphins and Striped Dolphins – also both aptly named!)

The species name, longirostris, also refers to the dolphin’s beak. The word is derived from the Latin longus, which means “long”, and rostrum, which means “snout” or “nose.”

Photo by Tasli Shaw

It’s nice to know that sometimes a species’ scientific name really is on the nose but in the case of the Spinner Dolphin I can’t help but wish the Latin focused a bit more on their flights of fancy.

Read our Spinner Dolphins stories here and don’t forget you can share your encounters of any whales, dolphin or porpoise species here.

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