Glossary Mining - Part 3: Digging for Buried Treasure Terminology translation jobs
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Glossary Mining - Part 3: Digging for Buried Treasure

By Lee Wright,
American Translators Association,
Alexandria, VA, U.S.A.

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See also:
Glossary Mining - Part 1
Glossary Mining - Down Tunnel No. 2
Glossary Mining - Part 3: Digging for Buried Treasure

Glossary Mining - Part 4: Making It Legal
Glossary Mining - Part 5: Getting Down to Business
Glossary Mining - Part 6: Science from A to Z
Glossary Mining - Part 7: Brush Up Your English

The first two installments of this series primarily dealt with finding monolingual, bilingual and multilingual glossaries in a wide variety of specialized subject areas, some of them mundane and others of a more esoteric nature. Virtually all of them were easy to locate in the glossary mine because they were the equivalent of visible veins of ore and in a few cases the mother lode. Others, however, were buried deep in the mountainside. The URLs of the Web sites where they were found gave no visible clues to the existence of any kind of glossary or other useful resource, i.e., they don’t contain words like "glossary", "dictionary" or "lexicon" or their short forms or equivalents in another language. This final foray into the depths of the glossary mine introduces a number of these hidden treasures.

One specific kind of reference work that can be extremely valuable for translation purposes is the thesaurus, which provides an excellent guide to the hierarchical concept system of a given subject field. Such is the case, for example, with the FAO’s AGROVAC Thesaurus (, which actually consists of nine separate Web sites for different languages (English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Portuguese, Czech, Thai, and Japanese). Additional sites are under construction for Lao, Hungarian, Slovak, Korean, and Malay, and the German and Italian sites, dating from 1992, are being revised. The neat thing about this particular site is whenever you select one of the languages, e.g., Spanish, and look up a Spanish term, you will also get a listing of the equivalents for all of the other languages, as well as related terms within the thesaurus based on a highly refined system of semantic relationships. There is also a complete glossary of English terms specific to the thesaurus itself.

Also in the agricultural field is the Web site for an English-Portuguese-English glossary of vegetable crop terms ( Aside from the "veget" part of this site’s URL, you couldn’t tell that it had anything to do with terminology until you actually display the Web page.

The AGROVAC Thesaurus is just one of several very useful resources that aren’t revealed as being glossaries as such. I am particularly fond of the Astronomy Thesaurus (, which provides terms in five different languages (English, Spanish, French, German, and Italian), in addition to cross-references to hierarchically related terms in each of the languages. Of course, unlike a true glossary, the individual thesaurus entries do not include any definitions for the terms. Nevertheless, whenever you look up a term in one of the languages, you can also click on the equivalent in any of the other languages and find the equivalent there.

The URLs for some Web sites that contain glossaries can be so enigmatic that the casual observer would never expect to find anything there. One of these is the bilingual English-French glossary of automotive terms produced by Canada Industry. Actually, these are two separate monolingual glossaries, but they are accessible from the same Web site just by clicking on the language name. is the URL, and the only difference between the English and the French glossary names is buried in the URL. Here’s the one for French:

If you’d like to give somebody the bird (or just name the bird) in another language, check out this site that allows you to search through a database of European bird names for the translation in nine languages: Latin (the scientific name of the species), Dutch, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Russian. The database currently holds 804 records (species and sub-species). Here again, the URL,, doesn’t reveal the presence of an excellent glossary.

As long as we’re on the subject of fauna, perhaps the next best thing to surfing the Web is to go on a fishing trip, and you can find virtually anything you could possibly imagine about fish at the marvelously well-organized Search FishBase Web site ( The information is available in fourteen different languages: Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Chinese, Bahasa Malay/Indonesian, Greek, Swedish, Russian, Farsi, Vietnamese, and Thai. Most interesting, however, is the fact that you can search according to ten different categories, including the common name, the scientific name, a glossary with complete definitions in the respective language, or by family, country of origin, ecosystem, or topic, as well as consult a section on the ecosystem inhabited by the various fish species (e.g., their feeding habits), plus another section of full-color biodiversity maps showing the areas where the different specimens were found. This entire database contains 29,300 species, 218,200 common names, and 42,400 pictures.

In some cases, although the presence of a glossary is not immediately apparent from the Web site’s URL, there might be something in the URL that hints at it existence. One such item is the monolingual chemistry dictionary at, where you can look up an English term and display its definition. Actually, this dictionary is just one member of an entire "family" consisting of 20 different dictionaries accessible at the same Web site ( In addition to chemistry, the subjects covered are acoustics, agriculture, anthropology, archeology, architecture, biology, biotechnology, cancer, chemistry, dance, electronics, environment, fine arts, geology, invertebrates, plants, political science, psychology, and sociology.

Related to chemistry and of special usefulness for anybody who might need to translate a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) from English into another language is the MSDS HyperGlossary, accessible at When you look any of the several hundred English terms listed, the database includes not only a complete definition but also additional information about that term and its relevance within an MSDS, as well as links to related terms and to other references on the subject.

On a lighter note, one particularly amusing yet informative Web site is one that features a glossary of computer Spanglish ( Its heading text reads "Errores habituales de Spanglish de los informáticos ... y también de los no informáticos", and the glossary lists a sizeable number of common English computer terms and their "correct" Spanish equivalents, together with appropriate admonitions against using the "wrong" equivalents (e.g., (keep a low) profile = pasar desapercibido (NADA que ver con "perfil bajo").

Moving on to the nuts and bolts category, the URL of yet another Web site doesn’t show any signs that anything useful was lurking inside it. is an excellent English-language glossary of fastener terms. (A similar resource can be found at It includes nice illustrations of the various fasteners in addition to groovy sound effects.)

Back to the subject of thesauri, the World Bank provides an entire gamut of different vocabularies at The United Nations UNESCO thesaurus ( is likewise a good source for certain types of terminology in English, French and Russian, plus providing links to official documents that contain whatever term was looked up in the thesaurus. Even better is the EUROVAC Thesaurus, which offers terminology in 21 languages and allows the user to create "custom" bi- or multilingual glossaries for any combination of four languages (e.g., Spanish, English, French and German in that order) and then either print the glossary and/or save it as an Excel file. A typical printed glossary runs to more than 130 pages. In addition, you can download the thesaurus by subject area (e.g., industry, trade, agriculture, energy, and so forth), as well as in permuted alphabetical order. The URL for the Spanish-language version of this thesaurus is!prod!MENU&langue=ES. From there you can access any of the other language via a drop-down list.

If you have ever had the opportunity to visit the lovely small city of Corning, NY, you are aware of its major role as a center of the glassmaking industry. The Corning Museum of Glass offers a wonderful Web site dealing all aspects of that industry, including a detailed and illustrated English-language glossary of glass terminology with complete definitions of all of the terms. Once again, the existence of the glossary itself is not detectable in the URL: Here the main list is in English, but you can look up terms in any of nine different languages and the equivalents will be displayed in all of the other languages, although no definition or other information is provided for any of them.

Translators of Spanish documents on fluid power and related subjects can find an excellent monolingual glossary of terms, complete with Spanish definitions and downloadable illustrations (line drawings) at The individual entries can be saved as PDF files or printed directly from the Web page. If you need to have English-language terminology in this subject area, a good place to find it is at Another hidden mother lode on this same subject but not a glossary is a complete and profusely illustrated book-length work on fluid power consisting of 11 chapters plus two appendices, one of which is a glossary. is the URL for this excellent site.

Other buried treasures seem to pop up with special frequency in US government Web sites, such as the one containing the OSHA Technical Manual. Most of the different chapters contain a glossary in an appendix. For example, the one on industrial robotics can be found at

Another government Web site,, provides the telecommunications terminology in Federal Standard 1037, as originally published in August 1986. However, for more current terminology pertaining to wireless communications (i.e., cell phones) , you should check out the glossary at Radio Shack’s Web site,

As long as we’re on the subject of mining, you can find a good English-language glossary of gold mining terms at Here the only real clue to the possible presence of a glossary appears at the very end of the URL.

Somewhat off the beaten track and of possible interest to any seamstresses out there, you can find a nice English-language glossary of sewing and fabrics terms at the well-hidden Web site of Modern Sewing Patterns ( Also covering the area of textiles is an extensive glossary by Resil Chemicals Pvt. Ltd. at

If you want to have terminology in a relatively narrow subject area, such as a specific type of plastic material, then you can get all the terms and other information related to polyethylene terephthalate (PET) at

Last but not least, music buffs will undoubtedly find this next glossary of music terminology handy. It can be found at If you like to have a cup of coffee or enjoy quaffing a good brew while you listen to music, you might want to review the Roast and Post Coffee Company’s Web site ( or learn brewing terminology while you’re at it by checking the Green Flash Brewing Company’s site at Once again, their URLs don’t reveal the presence of any glossary, but you can find them with a little digging.


This article was originally published in The ATA Chronicle.

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