Is this a glossary, a lexicon, or a thesaurus? How to tell them apart.
We have all come up with different types of controlled vocabularies and the truth is sometimes we don’t know if we are dealing with a glossary, a thesaurus, or a lexicon because in real life they tend of be used interchangeably, even in other languages. The French Wikipedia says that “Le terme glossaire est souvent confondu avec lexique”, and the “Financial Times Lexicon”, says in its introduction that you may “suggest new terms for this glossary”.
In my recent post on Realiter glossaries, most lexicons in the cover pages were translated into English as “glossaries” not lexicons. Some of them had definitions; some of them only included terms. So, how to know if we are using the right term? Indeed, it’s not an easy task, but I have gathered some definitions that I think will help us get a more clear differentiation. Do you have better definitions? Feel free to share them!
|Glossary||Alphabetical list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with the definitions for those terms.||TermTerm|
|Specialized vocabulary with definitions but does not provide other information about the words.||Dictionary.com|
|Terminological dictionary which contains a list of designations from a subject field, together with equivalents in one or more languages. NOTE: In English common language usage, glossary can refer to a unilingual list of designations and definitions in a particular subject field.||IATE(ISO 1087:2000)|
|A stock of terms used in a particular profession, subject, or style; a vocabulary.||The Free Dictionary.Merriam Webster also uses them as synonyms. So technically a lexicon should not be a glossary.|
|Nomenclature||A system of generating new terms for a particular field. Nomenclature is a set of external rules. A good nomenclature system has few rules all of which should be understood and applied, preferably with reproducible results, by more than one person.||A blogpost by Metallone explains the difficulties in differentiating it from terminology and proposes working definitions for each. (Recommended).|
|Ontology||Ontology, like a thesaurus, is a kind of taxonomy with structure and specific types of relationships between terms… relationships are greater in number and more specific in their function. They are used in more complex information systems, such as the Semantic Web.||Taxonomies SIG.org|
|Taxonomy||A simple hierarchical arrangement of entities where you have a parent-child kind of relationship.||Dimitrov, Marin What’s the difference between ontology and taxonomy? (Quora)|
|Taxonomy is the simplest variant [of controlled vocabularies] as it contains only terms that are organized into a hierarchical structure.||Grips Semantic Web|
|Taxonomy versus ontology||On the technical side, ontologies imply a broader scope of information. People often refer to a taxonomy as a ‘tree’, and extending that analogy I’d say that an Ontology is often more of a “forest”. An ontology might encompass a number of taxonomies, with each taxonomy organizing a subject in a particular way||New Idea Engineering|
|Terminology||Set of designations belonging to one special language||ISO 1087-1:2000|
|Thesaurus||Is a taxomony that includes related and synonymous terms/words, or “associative relationships as explained in The Accidental Taxonomist in a blog post they published on this topic. They go on to say that “This is largely true, and I will add that a thesaurus also must have equivalence relationships (between a “preferred term” and its synonyms or nonpreferred terms), whereas synonyms/nonpreferred terms are merely optional in taxonomies, depending on the taxonomy size|
|Topic map||A standard for the representation and interchange of knowledge, with an emphasis on the findability of information. Similar to concept maps and mind maps in many respects, though only Topic Maps are ISO standards. Topic Maps are a form of semantic web technology similar to RDF (Resource Description Framework)|