What is a glossary?

What Does Glossary Mean

We explain what a glossary is, what types exist and in which areas they are used. Also, how does it differ from a dictionary.

It is not usual to read the glossaries completely, but to look for something specific in them.

What is a glossary?

A glossary or vocabulary is called a set or catalog of definitions, explanations or clarifications of words , arranged alphabetically and that have to do with the same topic, area or matter of interest.

It is common to find them at the end of specialized texts , encyclopedias or other types of documents. Its objective is to provide the reader with clarifications about terms that may not be known , especially if they are specific or specialized uses that require some explanation and minimal context . Glossaries consist of organic and organized sets of words, intended for a quick reading and reference : it is not usual to read the glossaries, but to look for something specific in them. In addition, the words chosen to make up a glossary are those that can be confusing, that are very difficult or infrequent, or that respond to creative uses of language , since they are usually chosen and clarified by the author himself. Thus, it is possible to use a glossary when dealing with a specific topic, a specific author or a very particular documentary field. For example, there are medical glossaries, organic chemistry glossaries, basic computer glossaries, or even glossaries dedicated to the work of a particular philosopher or thinker, designed to make life easier for those who study it.

The term glossary comes from the Latin glossa , "foreign word" or "obsolete word", and was in common use ( glossarium ) to refer to collections of old or rare words, commonly elaborated from the second century on. See also: Annex

Glossary types

There are thousands of forms and presentations of a glossary, since one is developed for each specific area that needs it. Although in general there is no universal classification in which absolutely all glossaries take place, they can be differentiated between:

  • Specialized glossaries , accompanying technical documents or aimed at a very specific audience.
  • Common glossaries , which are aimed at a broader, lay audience.

Difference between glossary and dictionary

Glossaries and dictionaries have the same objective: to clarify terms, concepts and uses of words , thus assisting the reader in need of a quick reference. On the one hand, dictionaries tend to have a broad approach , which tries to exhaust a language (or, as in the case of specialized dictionaries, a technical or professional jargon), including as many words as possible. On the other hand, glossaries are dedicated only to words that really require an explanation, either because they are novel or infrequent, or because they arise from a very particular use or meaning of a common word. So dictionaries are comprehensive and universal, even when they are specialized dictionaries (such as a Latin-Spanish dictionary, or a medical dictionary), which is why they usually exist separately and are edited independently. For their part, glossaries are always dependent on another document that precedes them , such as a thesis , an encyclopedia or a research work , and for this reason they usually focus only on the terms and concepts relevant to the reading of said document. Continue with: Lexicon

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