Nopsca (1928) named the family group by coining Coelophysinae; Holtz (1994) was first to use the superfamily; Sereno (1998) was first to provide a phylogenetic definition, using Coelophysis and Carnotaurus as specifiers in a stem-based definition. Padian et al. (1999) and Tykoski and Rowe (2004) used Ceratosaurus rather than Carnotaurus as the external specifier.
The active definition is a first-order revision of Sereno (1998) that uses species as specifiers. To stabilize the content of Coelophysoidea (no matter where Ceratosauria [sensu stricto] is placed), this definition uses the highly nested Carnotarus sastrei, Ceratosaurus nasicornis (eponymous for Ceratosauria), and Passer domesticus as external specifiers.