Biogeography needs a standard, coherent nomenclature. Currently, in biogeography, the same name is used for different areas of biological endemism, and one area of endemism is known by more than one name, which leads to conflict and confusion. The name ‘Mediterranean’, for example, may mean different things to different people – all or part of the sea, or the land in and around it. This results in ambiguity concerning the meaning of names and, more importantly, may lead to conflicts between inferences based on different aspects of a given name. We propose the International Code of Area Nomenclature (ICAN), a naming system that can be used to classify newly coined or existing names based on a standard. When fully implemented, the ICAN will improve communication among biogeographers, systematists, ecologists and conservation biologists.