Why It Is Good to Have a Company Glossary or a Terminological Dictionary

Zbyněk Zelenka

Zbyněk Zelenka

13. 7. 2012

First, let me explain several terms. A company glossary is, in fact, a company’s (or more often a discipline’s) terminological dictionary usually containing comments or translations of unclear words, terms, or abbreviations.

A terminological dictionary (or a glossary with translations) is important for anyone who creates (and also translates) various company materials. The quality of these materials depends on a uniform use of correct terminology, i.e. a uniform use of terms that are unclear and could have several possible versions in the source language or several versions of translation.

Glossaries are usually only monolingual. See the following example:


Terminological dictionaries may contain both explanations of terms and their translations into foreign languages.

In order to achieve a good quality of product and machine manuals, promotional materials or websites of a company from the given discipline, it is first necessary to select terms (or abbreviations) that could be problematic in the given discipline. Then it is necessary to determine which version of the term (and in what context) should be used and how it should be translated, or which versions must never be used, if any.

Let’s take a look at an example from the financial sector.

For example, the Czech term “pojistné plnění” has a quite frequently used translation. This translation does not have to be accurate, however, and it may even cause a complicated complaint about the quality of the translation.

The meaning of this term in Czech is quite clear. It refers to a sum paid by an insurance company to compensate for incurred damage based on the insurance contract and conditions.

However, a problem may emerge when this term is translated into English, as it may be translated as insurance benefit, but most companies dealing in finance prefer indemnity, and the use of the former term is often even forbidden in company terminologies.

If this information is not available to the translator (in a terminological dictionary or a glossary with translations) and uses the forbidden term, there may be a dispute over the correctness of the used term and the potential complaints will be hard to resolve.

If, however, this information is available to the translator, the situation is clear and no mistake should be made.

Take another specific example from IT:

The English noun “click” is translated into Czech as “kliknutí” or “klepnutí”. Some companies prefer the former, some use both, and some companies (e.g. Microsoft) clearly define when to use “klepnutí” and when “kliknutí”. If clear instructions are not available to the translator in the form of a terminological dictionary with explanations, problems may emerge concerning the correctness of the translation, resulting in a complaint.

If there is a terminological dictionary (or a glossary with translations), it is important to:

- make sure it is used by everyone involved (both in the company and in external organizations, e.g. the translation agency),

- assure its regular updates and availability to all these people (ideally online).

Every large company should have its own proofreader or rewriter to give final approval with each newly incorporated term or comment on it and its translations. This should be an experienced person with linguistic and professional knowledge to be able to cooperate with translators or contracting translation agencies. The glossary (or dictionary) should always be provided as part of the order.

The time and effort spent on creating a glossary or terminological dictionary really pays off. The quality of the created (and translated) materials will be on a much higher level, as the terminology will be used in a uniform and correct way.

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