Thamnophis - means "bush snake" in Latin
sirtalis - from the Latin phrase "like a garter", referring to the old fashioned garters which resemble the longitudinal stripes of the common garter snake
Members of the genus Thamnophis include a number of aquatic, semi-aquatic and terrestrial snakes, all known as garter or ribbon snakes. Because they are often found near water, they are mistakenly called water snakes by those unaware of the true water snakes in the genus Nerodia. In Canada, there are five subspecies of the common garter snake.