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For terminology as a type of resource/artifact, see Terminology (artifact).

Terminology is the study of terms and their use. Terms are words and compound words that in specific contexts are given specific meanings, meanings that may deviate from the meaning the same words have in other contexts and in everyday language. The discipline Terminology studies among other things how such terms of art come to be and their interrelationships within a culture. Terminology differs from lexicography in studing concepts, conceptual systems, and their labels (terms), whereas lexicography study words and their meanings.

Terminology thus denotes a discipline which systematically studies the labelling or designating of concepts particular to one or more subject fields or domains of human activity, through research and analysis of terms in context, for the purpose of documenting and promoting consistent usage. This study can be limited to one language or can cover more than one language at the same time (multilingual terminology, bilingual terminology, and so forth) or may focus on studies of terms across fields.


The discipline of terminology consists primarily of the following aspects:

  • analysing the concepts and concept structures used in a field or domain of activity
  • identifying the terms assigned to the concepts
  • in the case of bilingual or multilingual terminology, establishing correspondences between terms in the various languages
  • compiling the terminology, on paper or in databases
  • managing terminology databases
  • creating new terms, as required

Types of terminology

A distinction is made between two types of terminology:

  • Ad hoc terminology, which deals with a single term or a limited number of terms
  • Systematic terminology, which deals with all the terms in a specific subject field or domain of activity

Ad hoc terminology is prevalent in the translation profession, where a translation for a specific term (or group of terms) is required quickly to solve a particular translation problem.

Terminology as a discipline

As a discipline, terminology is often related to translation, alongside which it is often taught in universities and translation schools. Large translation departments and translation bureaus will often have a terminology section, or will require translators to do terminology research. However, terminology is not necessarily restricted to translation. Terminology as a discipline can also be restricted to one language, for example in many technical industries and standardization institutes where monolingual glossaries are compiled by terminologists in order to ensure the consistent use of terms in specific industries and specialized fields.

Terminological theories

Traditional theory

  • General Theory of Terminology[1]

Social and communicative theories

  • Socioterminology[2]
  • Communicative Theory of Terminology[3]

Cognitive theories

  • Sociocognitive Terminology[4]
  • Frame-Based Terminology[5]

See also


  1. Wüster, E. (1979). Einführung in die allgemeine Terminologielehre und terminologische Lexikographie. Teil 1-2, Springer-Verlag.
  2. Gaudin, F. (1993). Socioterminologie: propos et propositions épistémologiques. Le langage et l'homme 28 (4): 247–257.
  3. Cabré, M.T. (1999). La terminología: representación y comunicación, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.
  4. Temmerman, R. (2000). Towards new ways of terminology description: the sociocognitive-approach, John Benjamins publishing company.
  5. Faber, P.; Montero, S.; Castro, M.R.; Senso, J.; Prieto, J.A.; León, P.; Márquez C.; Vega, M. (2006). Process-oriented terminology management in the domain of Coastal Engineering. Terminology 12 (2): 189–213.

Further reading

  • Sonneveld, H, Loenning, K: (1994): Introducing terminology, in Terminology, p. 1-6
  • Wright, S.E.; Budin, G.: (1997): Handbook of Terminology Management, Volume 1, Basic Aspects of Terminology Management, Amsterdam, Philadelphia, John Benjamins 370 pp.

External links

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