The literature on speciation has expanded dramatically in recent years, catalyzed by the emergence of new conceptual frameworks, new theoretical approaches, and new methods for characterizing pattern and inferring process. As a consequence, the language used to describe the speciation process has become more complex. Increasing complexity may be an accurate reflection of current thinking with respect to how phenotypic differences limit gene flow, how selection results in the evolution of reproductive isolation, and genetic changes that contribute to speciation. However, increased language complexity has come at a cost; old definitions have been reconfigured and new terms have been introduced. In some instances, the introduction of new terminology has failed to recognize historical usage, leading to unnecessary ambiguity and redundancy. Although the writings of Mayr and Dobzhansky remain a reference point in the language of speciation, the last decades of the 20th century saw substantial changes in our thinking about the speciation process. During that period, the language of speciation remained relatively stable. In contrast, the first decade of the 21st century has witnessed a remarkable expansion of the language of speciation. Here, the origin and evolution of ideas about speciation are viewed through the lens of changing language use.