The name Halticosaurus comes from the Greek words altikos (αλτικος) meaning "good at jumping"/"nimble" and sauros (σαυρος) meaning "lizard"; thus "nimble lizard". Halticosaurus was described and named by Friedrich von Huene in 1908 and the type species is Halticosaurus longotarsus.
Halticosaurus longotarsus, is known from the holotype SMNS 12353, which consists of partial jaw bones and teeth, incomplete neck, back, hip and tail vertebrae, a partial humerus, two partial femora, and fragments of an ilium and a metatarsal This material was found to be mixed in with the remains of a prosauropod dinosaur, Sellosaurus gracilis. Rauhut and Hungerbuhler (2000) reassessed the type material and concluded that only the two partial femora can be reliably referred to this genus. The hip bone has only two fused sacral vertebrae, a basal condition. The presence of a five-fingered hand represents the primitive condition of dinosaurs. Benton (1992) noted that its skull was 18 inches long but was lightly built, featuring large fenestrae. The legs of Halticosaurus were strong as its arms were relatively short. Estimates suggest that Halticosaurus was about 5.5 m (18.0 ft) long.