Compsognathidae was originally coined by Cope (1871, Proc. Amer. Assoc. Adv. Science 1870:194-247) and was correctly cited by Chure and McIntosh (1989). The taxon was cited for the correct year but wrong publication by Holtz et al. (2004). Ostrom (1978), Chen et al. (1998), and Hwang et al. (2004) cited Marsh (1882) as author of Compsognathidae; Marsh claimed in that paper that this taxon (and other families) were named by himself, although he does not indicate specifically that the family is new. Kuhn (1967), Steel (1973), Paul (1988) and Naisch et al. (2004) cited Cope (1875) for Compsognathidae. Furthermore, the original description of the type species (Compsognathus longipes) by Wagner (1961; Abhandl. Bayer. Akad. Wiss. 9:30-38) is also often cited incorrectly with reference to another paper in the same volume by Wagner (1961; Abhandl. Bayer. Akad. Wiss. 9:65-124) that described the associated fauna (e.g. Chure and McIntosh 1989, Rauhut 2003).
Compsognathidae is defined here as a stem-based taxon that includes Compsognathus and two more recently named genera from China, Sinosauropteryx and Huaxiagnathus (Hwang et al. 2004). The active definition is a textual variant of that given in Holtz et al. (2004), the only definition published to date.
Two species at the base of Coelurosauria, Ornitholestes hermanni and Coelurus fragilis, may eventually be shown to be most closely related to Compsognathus, although this is not currently supported by any analysis. If that proves to be the case, the inclusion of Ornitholestes in Compsognathidae is not inappropriate, given that Osborn (1903) originally described Ornitholestes as a “compsognathoid” (although the superfamily has never been used to my knowledge). To include Coelurus and any closely related genera or species (new material close to the original has been found) in Compsognathidae also would not present a problem. Coeluridae (Marsh 1881) postdates Compsognathidae, and an eponymous subfamilial taxon could be defined, if either group became significantly more diverse.