The Piperaceae, also known as the pepper family, is a large family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 of flowering plants. The group contains roughly 3,610 currently accepted species in five genera. The vast majority of peppers can be found within the two main genera: Piper
Piper (genus)
Piper, the pepper plants or pepper vines , are an economically and ecologically important genus in the family Piperaceae...

(2000 species) and Peperomia
Peperomia is one of the 2 large genera of the Piperaceae family, with more than 1000 recorded species. Most of them are compact, small perennial epiphytes growing on rotten wood. More than 1500 species have been recorded, occurring in all tropical and subtropical regions of the world, though...

(1600 species).

Members of the Piperaceae may be small trees, shrubs or herbs. The distribution of this group is best described as pantropical
In biogeography, a pantropical distribution one which covers tropical regions of all of the major continents, i.e. in Africa, in Asia and in the Americas. Examples include the plant genera Acacia and Bacopa....


The most well known species is Piper nigrum, which yields most peppercorns that are used as spices, including black pepper
Black pepper
Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, which is usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning. The fruit, known as a peppercorn when dried, is approximately in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed...

, although its relatives in the family include many other spices.
The name Pipereraceae is likely derived from the Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 term pippali, which was used to describe long peppers (like that of Piper longum).
The APG III system
APG III system
The APG III system of flowering plant classification is the third version of a modern, mostly molecular-based, system of plant taxonomy...

 of 2009 recognizes this family, and assigns it to the order Piperales
Piperales is a botanical name for an order of flowering plants. It necessarily includes the family Piperaceae but otherwise has been treated variously over time...

 in the unranked clade magnoliids.