Note: This blog entry was originally written in Japanese in 2019 for our Japanese website. We used our machine translation platform Translation Designer to translate the entry into English and to post-edit the output for readers outside of Japan. The original Japanese entry can be found here.

Do you use glossaries? Glossaries are created for a variety of purposes, one of which is for translation work. Glossaries are an important component that determines the quality of translation. When translating from one language to another, if the same thing is rewritten with another name, the integrity of the document will be lost, becoming illogical.

So, what kind of problems will occur without a glossary? And what are the benefits of having a glossary?

Glossaries are a subject of high interest to those involved in translation work at companies. In order to meet the needs, we have decided to write a blog article about utilizing glossaries.

What is a glossary in the first place?

A glossary is a collection of words or compound words that have a detailed description of their terminology. In the business domain, it is used to ensure smooth information exchange and communication by unifying names and concepts among stakeholders. In some cases, a glossary created by third parties such as public institutions, standardization bodies, or industry groups is used. In other cases, a glossary is created within a company for only internal use for the purpose of facilitating internal communication. For example, the following are included.

- General words or compound words with definitions added to them like a dictionary.
- Things that indicate unique names but are widely and commonly used, such as region names and personal names (proper nouns).
- Words or compound words specific to a particular industry with definitions added to them, as defined in an international standard such as ISO.
- Words or compound words with definitions added to them for the purpose of being used only by a specific organization. For example, for the purpose of gaining a common understanding among the persons in charge of development and design within a manufacturing company. - Terms that are close to proper nouns that companies manage, which are used for unifying the names of their products and services for marketing and sales activities. (These types of terms are registered as a trademark and measures will be taken so they cannot be imitated.)

In other words, even if you say "glossary" in one word, some glossaries are general-purpose and cover a wide area like a dictionary, and some are only used in a narrow area such as within one company. It is important to remember to understand this. In general, it is easier to understand if you imagine a pyramid-like structure in which a narrow glossary is prioritized over a broad glossary.

Benefits of creating a glossary

The purpose of creating a glossary has several benefits other than for a smooth information exchange and communication that have been already mentioned.

Improving document reliability
For example, if the terminology used in a document is inconsistent, the reader will not know that it is pointing to the same thing. This can lead to misunderstandings, but you can avoid them.

Improving document quality
Normally, in the case of a translation project that does not have a glossary, terms are translated based on the translator's background knowledge and specialized field. The person in charge of quality assurance and the reviewer confirm these translated terms while looking at their supporting evidence. However, translators cannot comply with terms that are used only within a particular company. Even in this case, wrong terms that are used will provide the reader with incorrect information. If there is a glossary, this can be avoided.

Improving work efficiency
Translators determine translated terms by searching information on the Internet, in addition to using familiar dictionaries and specialized glossaries. By reducing the time required for this search and investigation, the productivity of the translation work itself will be greatly increased.

Brand image
In some cases, mistakes in the terms used can damage a company's brand image. On the official website of Osaka Metro that used machine translation for its English page, it was reported in the media that Sakai-suji Line was translated into "Sakai Muscle Line." (Suji means muscle in Japanese.) But such a mistake could have been avoided by registering the term "Sakai-suji Line". Misused words can seriously damage the company's brand image.

Reducing cost
Finally, the main purpose of creating a glossary is to reduce the cost of translation work. Confirmation and verification work and correction work due to the absence of a glossary are recorded as reviewing costs. As will be described later, if you have a bilingual glossary, you can reduce the work cost by using a tool that automatically checks whether the glossary is applied correctly.

Translation and glossaries

Before discussing the relationship between translation and glossaries, which is the main subject in this section, let's know that there is a monolingual glossary and a bilingual glossary. A general glossary is a collection of technical terms written in your language (in our case, Japanese). For example, in the field of finance and investor relations, the Japan Exchange Group has published a glossary on its website (, and the Japanese Circulation Society has published a glossary of cardiovascular terminology (

Of course, these monolingual glossaries are useful when translating, but bilingual glossaries with paired target language terms are useful. The bilingual format allows you to distribute Excel and web-based glossaries to translators for reference when translating. Also, you can even use them for automatic verification with a quality check tool called Xbench. If you have a monolingual glossary at your company, you can translate it to create a bilingual glossary.

In the case of multiple languages, you can even create a multilingual (two or more languages) glossary. The data format used for bilingual and multilingual glossaries is TBX (Term Base eXchange). The format is an international standard (ISO 30042:2008), which describes structured concept-oriented term data. Although TBX is XML-based, this standard has the advantage that it can be used with almost any CAT tool.


We hope this article gives you an idea of glossaries. Let's summarize what we have explained.

- A glossary generally refers to a group of words or compound words that have detailed semantic definitions (terminology). It is utilized in order to ensure smooth information exchange and communication.

- There are glossaries that are general-purpose that cover a wide area like dictionaries and those that cover a narrow area. They form a pyramid-like structure in which a narrow glossary is prioritized over a broad glossary.

- Glossaries even have benefits such as reducing cost and improving a brand image. - There are monolingual and bi- (multi-) lingual glossaries. For translation work, if you use the TBX format, which is a bilingual XML format, there are advantages that you can use it in various environments and improve efficiency by automatic verification.

Kawamura's Translation Service

Kawamura International not only provides translation services utilizing glossaries but can also create glossaries for your company.

We cover industries such as IT, software localization, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, finance, IR, legal affairs, tourism, manufacturing, and SAP-related documents. The most suited translators will be assigned according to your industry and specialty. We offer comprehensive solutions to all of your problems. Please feel free to contact us for translation requests or if you have any questions about translation services in general.