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What is a glossary? A glossary is basically a catalog of words from a select discipline or area of study in which the terms are arranged alphabetically and defined, discussed and/or translated into another language.

There are general glossaries on subjects like medicine, economics or art, for example, and then there are more specific glossaries within these topics, such as infectious diseases and public health, taxes and investments, or art history and photography. This categorization may be quite restricted, but the groupings generally overlap or include more than one area (a glossary on medical insurance may be useful for translating medical or insurance texts).

Some institutions and companies also have their own glossaries that aid the user/client in understanding the organization’s special terminology. These can be a lifesaver for a translator working on something from the company or in the same field.

Glossaries can be monolingual (the explanation or definition is in the same language), bilingual (the words and/or definitions are translated into another language) and can be used both forwards and backwards, meaning from either language, or even multilingual (translations in more than one language).

When using a glossary, it is essential to know exactly what you are looking for, what area or field you need to check and how precise the term needs to be.

A tip: If a bilingual glossary is not available, use a very specific monolingual one to gather a better idea of the true meaning(s) of the word you are after.

There are numerous sites that collect glossaries (by area, topic, language, etc.). Sometimes a glossary for a certain company or institution can be found on its website. And if you are facing an extraordinarily technical or specific topic, it’s not a bad idea to ask the client if a glossary is available.

I’d also like to share this link with you: GLOSSARY This is a compilation of different glossaries that a friend put together and which is divided by topics, subtopics, languages, etc.  Hopefully they will be as useful to you as they have been to me.

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