Resources of the Legal Thesaurus

What is the difference between a taxonomy and a thesaurus?

In some cases, the main difference between a Taxonomy and a Thesaurus is its purpose. The Taxonomy is designed often to facilitate information retrieval from a website. The Thesaurus, on the other hand, is designed to cover a much greater range of subjects. As with the Thesaurus, a Taxonomy can be used as a subject classification system for collection arrangement in small libraries or labour information centres.

Web Resources

Blogs and Wikis

  • Earley & Associates Blog– contributions by taxonomy consultants
  • Synaptica Central – a blog from the Dow Jones metadata and taxonomy team with discussions and news items about vocabularies and taxonomies in general, as well as about the Synaptica thesaurus management system.
  • TaxoDiary – a blog with contributions from Marjorie Hlava and Jay Ven Eman
  • Taxonomy Community of Practice Wikispace – public wiki founded by Seth Earley as a space for the Taxonomy Community to share experiences and case studies, create a document repository, collaborate on best practices, and engage in dialogue.
  • The Taxonomy Blog – moderated by Marlene Rockmore

Taxonomies, Controlled Vocabularies, Thesauri and Classification Schemes

As there are already comprehensive lists of controlled vocabularies and other authority files published on the web, we have not listed individual vocabularies here.

General Advice, Glossaries and Resources


Video and Audio Presentations

Standards and Guidelines

Software – Thesaurus and Ontology Management Software




Thesaurus Building – Controlled Vocabularies

These pages provide links to examples of thesauri and to classification schemes that may be used for controlling database or WWW site subject content. They also provide links to descriptive and critical material about such metainformation. Please navigate through them using the menu at the left.

Thesaurus Building & Use – Guidance

Craven, T. Introductory tutorial on thesaurus construction. London, Ontario, Canada: University of Western Ontario, Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
Step by step guidance on constructing a thesaurus, including collecting terms, deciding on the forms of terms, and choosing the appropriate relationships with which to link terms.
Hoy, M.(1998). Understanding government terminology: natural language searching and government thesauri.. Canberra: National Archives of Australia.
This contains a summary of the historical context of the development of functions from an archival perspective, focusing primarily on case studies, in the Archives Authority of New South Wales and the National Archives of Australia. Broad er level on-line initiatives in Australia are then examined, followed by a discussion of natural language and how such queries could be translated to relevant terms in the broad level government function-based thesaurus for text or metadata searching.A model is proposed for a natural language thesaurus and a function-based thesaurus called the Australian Governments’ Interactive Functions Thesaurus (AGIFT). The thesaurus is intended to cover the functions of Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government. The workings of the model are described at a conceptual level and methodologies for development of the content are explored.
International Organization for Standardization
ISO 2788:1986 Documentation — Guidelines for the establishment and development of monolingual thesauri
ISO 5964:1985 Documentation — Guidelines for the establishment and development of multilingual thesauri
Montague logo Montague Institute.
The Institute provides tools, techniques, and training for information professionals who are working with corporate knowledge publication; the site includes articles that deal with organizing information, taxonomies and taxonomy models.
Morville, P. (1998). Building a synonymous search index. Webreview

Craven, T. Introductory tutorial on thesaurus construction. London, Ontario, Canada: University of Western Ontario, Graduate School of Library and Information Science.
Step by step guidance on constructing a thesaurus, including collecting terms, deciding on the forms of terms, and choosing the appropriate relationships with which to link terms.Hoy, M.(1998). Understanding government terminology: natural language searching and government thesauri.. Canberra: National Archives of Australia.
This contains a summary of the historical context of the development of functions from an archival perspective, focusing primarily on case studies, in the Archives Authority of New South Wales and the National Archives of Australia. Broad er level on-line initiatives in Australia are then examined, followed by a discussion of natural language and how such queries could be translated to relevant terms in the broad level government function-based thesaurus for text or metadata searching.A model is proposed for a natural language thesaurus and a function-based thesaurus called the Australian Governments’ Interactive Functions Thesaurus (AGIFT). The thesaurus is intended to cover the functions of Commonwealth, State, Territory and local government. The workings of the model are described at a conceptual level and methodologies for development of the content are explored.

International Organization for Standardization

  • ISO 2788:1986 Documentation — Guidelines for the establishment and development of monolingual thesauri
  • ISO 5964:1985 Documentation — Guidelines for the establishment and development of multilingual thesauri

Montague Institute.
The Institute provides tools, techniques, and training for information professionals who are working with corporate knowledge publication; the site includes articles that deal with organizing information, taxonomies and taxonomy models.Morville, P. (1998). Building a synonymous search index. Webreview






  • Batty, D. (1989). Thesaurus construction and maintenance: a survival kit. Database, 12(1), 13-20.
  • Batty, D. (1989). WWW – Wealth, Weariness or Waste: Controlled vocabulary and thesauri in support of online information access. D-Lib Magazine.
  • CENDI Subject Analysis and Retrieval Working Group Conference ‘Controlled Vocabulary and the Internet’ (1999, Sep 29). Presentations.
  • Chan, L.M. & Pollard, R. (1988). Thesauri used in online databases: An analytical guide. N.Y.: Greenwood Press (ISBN: 0313257884).
  • Chitty, M. (2002-). Biopharmaceutical Taxonomy bibliography.
  • Cochrane, P. A. (1992). Indexing and searching thesauri, the Janus or Proteus of information retrieval. In N. J. Williamson & M. Hudon (eds.), Classification Research for Knowledge Representation and Organization (pp. 161-178). FID.
  • Fast, K., Fred Leise, F. & Steckel, M. (2002-3). Boxes and Arrows online series on Controlled Vocabularies:
  • Foskett, D.J. (1980). Thesaurus. In A. Kent and H. Lancour (Eds.), Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science vol. 30 (pp. 416-463). N.Y.: Dekker.
  • Gantzmann, J. (1990). Criteria for the evaluation of thesaurus software. International Classification, 17(3/4), 148-154; with appendix, p. 155-157 Check-list for thesaurus software.
  • Gilchrist, A. (1994). Classification and thesauri. In B.C. Vickery (Ed.), Fifty Years of Information Progress: a Journal of Documentation review (pp. 85-118). London: Aslib.
    (A brief overview of library-based classification systems, accompanied by a more extensive historical overview of thesaurus development and its relationship to knowledge representation in expert systems, accompanied by a lengthy bibliography.)
  • Gilchrist, A. (2003). Thesauri, taxonomies and ontologies – an etymological note. Journal of Documentation, 59(1), 7-18.
  • Hearst, M.A., & Karadi, C. (1997). Cat-a-Cone: An interactive interface for specifying searches and viewing retrieval results using a large category hierarchy. InProceedings of 20th Annual International ACM/SIGIR Conference, Philadelphia, PA.
  • Jing, N., Qilin, Q., & Xinli, Z. (2003). Comparative analysis of overseas e-government thesauri development and its Internet application. Journal of the China Society for Scientific and Technical Information, 22 (5) 2003, pp. 565-571.
  • Johnson, E.H., & Cochrane, P.A. (1995). A Hypertextual interface for a searcher’s thesaurus (paper for DL95)
  • Jones, S. (1993). A thesaurus data model for an intelligent retrieval system. Journal of Information Science. 19, 167-178.
    (E-R data model for thesaurus structure)
  • Kosovac, B. Internet/Intranet and thesauri.
  • Krooks, D.A., & Lancaster F.W. (1993). The evolution of guidelines for thesaurus construction. Libri 43(4), 326-342.
    (Development of guidelines and principles is examined for the period from 1959 to 1993. It is concluded that the majority of the basic problems had already been identified and solved by 1967, and that Eugene Wall was a major influence on development.)
  • Lancaster, F. W. (1986). Vocabulary Control (2nd ed.). Arlington, VA, USA: Information Resources Press.
    (Explains thesaurus structures, creation, use and evaluation with many examples.)
  • McCulloch, E. (2004). Multiple terminologies: an obstacle to information retrieval. Library Review 53(6): 297-300.
  • McCulloch,E. (2005). Thesauri: practical guidance for construction. Library Review 54(7): 403-409.
  • Milstead, J.L. (1990). Thesaurus software packages for personal computers. Database, 13(6), 61-65.
  • Milstead, J.L. (1991). Specifications for thesaurus software. Information Processing and Management, 27(2/3), 165-175.
  • Milstead, J.L. (1998). NISO Z39.19: Standard for structure and organization of information retrieval thesauri: Paper presented at the Taxonomic Authority Files Workshop, Washington, DC, June 23, 1998.
  • Milstead, J.L. (2000). About thesauri.
  • Networked knowledge organization systems. (2001). Journal of Digital Information, 1(8)




  • Orna, E. (1983). Build yourself a thesaurus: a step by step guide. Norwich, UK: Running Angel.
  • Ritzler, C. (1990). Comparative study of PC-supported thesaurus software. International Classification, 17(3/4), 138-147.
    (Comparison of the INDEX, PROTERM and TMS packages.)
  • Roe, S. K., & Thomas, A. R. (Eds.). (2004). The thesaurus: Review, renaissance and revision. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Information Press.
  • Rowley, J. (1991). Thesaurus modules in text management software. In P. Gillman (Ed.), Text retrieval: information first; proceedings of the Institute of Information Scientists 1990 Text Retrieval Conference, London (pp. 16-33). London: Taylor Graham. (ISBN 0-947568-47-6).
  • Schneider, J. W., & Borlund, P. (2004). Introduction to bibliometrics for construction and maintenance of thesauri: Methodical considerations. Journal of Documentation, 60(5), 524-529.
  • Shiri, A.A. & Revie, C. (2000). Thesauri on the Web: current developments and trends. Online Information Review, 24(4), 273-280.
  • Shiri, A., & Revie, C. (2005). Usability and user perceptions of a thesaurus-enhanced search interface. Journal of Documentation, 61(5), 640-656.
  • Shiri, A., Revie, C., & Chowdhury, G. (2002). Thesaurus-assisted search term selection and query expansion: a review of user-centred studies. Knowledge Organization, 29(1), 1-19.
  • Soergel, D. (1999). The rise of ontologies or the reinvention of classification. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 50(12), 1119-1120.
  • Weinberg, B.H. (1995). Library classification and information retrieval thesauri: comparison and contrast. Cataloguing & Classification Quarterly 19(3/4), 23-44.
    (Thesauri are compared with classification schemes developed for the arrangement of library materials and/or bibliographic records. The various structures and applications of thesauri are surveyed, with an emphasis on their increasing role in electronic information retrieval. The distinction between thesaurus construction and the development of classification schemes is expected to blur in the future.)
  • Will, L. (1996). Thesaurus Principles and Practice
    (Revision of paper originally presented at a workshop held at the Science Museum, London. The proceedings have been published as Thesauri for museum documentation: the proceedings of a Workshop held at the Science Museum, London, 24 February 1992, Museum Documentation Association, Terminology Working Group, Cambridge. (MDA occasional paper ; 18)(ISBN 0-905963-84-9, ISSN 0140 7198).)
  • Williamson, N.J. (1996). Standards and rules for subject access. Cataloguing & Classification Quarterly, 21(3/4), 155-176.
    (Standards and guidelines are described in terms of origins, characteristics, and control, as well as importance in the design of bibliographic retrieval systems. Emphasis is given to the importance of the relationship between alphabetic and systematic access.)
  • Thesaurus management software. In Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science 51(suppl. 14), 389-407.


Thesaurus Sites

AGIFT (Australian Governments’ Interactive Functions Thesaurus)
This is supported by the National Archives of Australia and describes business functions carried out across Commonwealth, State and local governments in Australia. It contains 25 high-level functions, each with second and third level terms, as well as non-preferred terms and related terms. Terms can be entered as metadata for the function element of the Australian Government Locator Service (AGLS).

English language interface to Thesaurus of the Viikki Science Library at the University of Helsinki.

FAO online vocabulary search facility: English, French, Spanish, Portuguese.

AIATSIS pathways thesauri
These contain headings for language groups, place names and subjects relating to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies. The headings are used to describe all items held in Mura®, the AIATSIS Collections Catalogue.

Alzheimer’s Disease Thesaurus

AOD: The Alcohol and Other Drug Thesaurus
A guide to concepts and terminology in substance abuse and addiction from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

AOHST: Australian Occupational Health and Safety Thesaurus
Produced by Australia’s National Occupational Health and Safety Commission and available as separate PDF files comprising a hierarchical structure of preferred terms and an alphabetical list of preferred terms and non-preferred terms.

APAIS Thesaurus
A list of subject terms used by the National Library of Australia for the Australian Public Affairs information Service.

APT: Australian Pictorial Thesaurus
Created from the State Library of New South Wales PICMAN topic thesaurus, and hosted at SLNSW using ADLIB Information Systems software.

Art and Architecture Thesaurus


ASFA Thesaurus: Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Abstracts
Also available as Thesaurus Builder.

Asian vegetables
‘Access to Asian vegetables’ thesaurus of Victoria’s State Department of Primary Industries.

ASIS Thesaurus
American Society of Information Science Thesaurus of Information Science. 2nd ed. by Jessica Milstead.

Astronomy Thesaurus
Compiled by R.M. & R.R. Shobbrook, provides multilingual access: English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.


  • Australia-Japan research project
    The AJRP, a joint enterprise between the Australian War Memorial and the Japanese Embassy in Canberra includes controlled vocabularies for area, keyword and unit name.


Australian Emergency Management Terms Thesaurus
Derived from Manual 4 (Compiled by staff of the Emergency Management Information Centre, 1998, ISBN 0 642 58810 4) in the Australian Emergency Manual Series.

Australian Thesaurus of Educational Descriptors, 3rd ed.
ATED is managed by the Cunningham Library of the Australian Council for Educational Research and is used to index the Australian Education Index and the Education Research Theses databases, as well as the ACER library catalogue.

Australian Transport Index Thesaurus
Devised by the staff of the MG Lay Library at ARRB Transport Research and available as pdf file.

Australian Women’s Weekly Subject Thesaurus
Compiled by B Baird and revised by K Borrett in 1998, as part of the Australian Women’s Weekly 1946-71 Index: a collaborative research project in the Women’s Studies Department at Flinders University. It may be consulted when searching the index.

Biocomplexity thesaurus
Developed through a partnership between the NBII (the U.S. National Biological Information Infrastructure) and CSA, as a merger of the CSA’s Aquatic Sciences and Fisheries Thesaurus, Life Sciences Thesaurus, Pollution Thesaurus, and Sociological Thesaurus, with the CERES/NBII Thesaurus.

Bioethics Thesaurus [offline at Dec 2006 check]
This is a concordance with MeSH from the thesaurus that supports the BIOETHICSLINE database at U.S. National Reference Center for Bioethics Literature at Georgetown University.

British Museum


Kevin Taylor’s Ka-Boom listing of comic book words (Offline – available in hardcopy for purchase)

CA Lexicon
This supplants the CAS General Subject Vocabulary Helper of Chemical Abstracts Service and is available to subscribers of STN.



CALL at the US Center of Army Lessons Learned
Contains military terminology – there is provision for direct searching of the thesaurus terms on the Web by request to the AltaVista facility.

Canadian Literacy Thesaurus = Thésaurus canadien d’alphabétisation
Maintained by the Canadian Literacy Thesaurus Coalition; funded by the National Literacy Secretariat of Human Resources Development Canada.

Canadian Subject Headings
CSH is a list of standard subject headings (in English) on Canadian topics, which complements and is compatible with Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). The records are a cumulation of about 6000 headings, including those in Canadian Subject Headings, Third Edition (CSH3), 1992, and its supplements.

Canadian Thesaurus of Construction Science and Technology
TC/CS was prepared by the IF Research Group, University of Montreal for the Government of Canada, Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce (now called Industry Canada).

CATIE (Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange)
Entry point for terms in thesaurus used by Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange, Canada.

CERES/NBII thematic thesaurus
The Californian Environmental Resources Evaluation System and National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) Biological Resources Division (BRD) are collaborating on the development of an Integrated Environmental Thesaurus and Thesaurus Networking Tool Set for metadata development and keyword searching to facilitate access to a variety of electronic data describing California’s environments.

Cook’s Thesaurus
Lori Alden’s cooking encyclopedia that covers ingredients and kitchen tools. Entries include pictures, descriptions, synonyms, pronunciations, and suggested substitutions.

CRTC Thesaurus = Thésaurus CRTC
Used by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission = Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des télécommunications canadiennes for keywords and phrases used to index Decisions, Notices and Orders.

Curtin Keyword Thesaurus
Developed primarily for central administrative records at Curtin University of Technology ; it is derived from the Keyword AAA Thesaurus.

DEH (Department of the Environment and Heritage) thesaurus
Produced by the Australian Department of Environment and Heritage, developed from a subset of the Thesaurus of Environmental Protection Terms, of the WA Dept. of Environmental Protection, 1995.

DFD Thesaurus
Developed by the ‘German Remote Sensing Data Centre (Deutsches Fernerkundungsdatenzentrum) for their ‘Intelligent Satellite Data Information System ISIS’ in accordance with ISO 2788. Its structure has been enriched by a number of elements in order to facilitate its usage in a dedicated query interface.

DTIC Thesaurus
The thesaurus is used in association with the US Department of Defense Technical Information Center’s scientific and technical documents collections, and may be searched by selecting it as a database from the STINET site.

ÉDUthès (French language)
Education thesaurus of the Centre de Documentation Collégiale (CDC), Quebec, Canada.

EET (European Education Thesaurus)
Joint product of the European Commission and the Council of Europe; for download from EURYDICE, the education information network in Europe.

eHealth Thesaurus (French language)
Maintained in Canada by the Office of Health and the Information Highway (OHIH) to index material on health care and health information, telecommunications technology, including health technologies, the Internet and computers, and branches of telehealth services.

ELDIS [offline at Dec 2006 check]
This is based upon the English version of the UN Macrothesaurus, 3rd ed., and used by the ELDIS gateway hosted at Institute for Development Studies, Sussex.

Envoc thesaurus [offline at Dec 2006 check]
The thesaurus for INFOTERRA databases. (INFOTERRA: formerly the International Referral System of the United Nations Environment Programme, is the Global Environmental Information Exchange Network, established in 1975 by UNEP to “facilitate the exchange of environmental information within and among nations”.

ERIC Thesaurus
The U.S. Educational Resources Information Center vocabulary for its digital library of educational literature.

The European Commission’s multilingual term bank, developed since 1973. The four original languages were Dutch, French, German and Italian, to which Danish and English were added in 1973, Greek in 1981, Portuguese and Spanish in 1986, and Finnish and Swedish in 1995. Latin is also present. It covers a broad spectrum of human knowledge, with emphasis in technical and specialised terminology (agriculture, telecommunications, transport, legislation, finance) related to EU policy.

A multilingual, polythematic thesaurus focusing on the laws and legislation of the European Union (EU). It may be used in the areas of law, legislation and politics. Eurovoc exists in 11 official EU languages ( Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Swedish). There are also versions in the languages of some non-membership countries including Czech Republic.

Fachgebärdenlexikon Psychologie (German Language)
Universität Hamburg lexicon of signs used in the field of psychology with terminology in German and English.

Family Thesaurus Online
Australian Institute of Family Studies has produced this since 1984 to index the literature in the Australian Family & Society Abstracts database; it charts changes in terminology in the interdisciplinary field of family studies, which draws on a number of social science disciplines, including sociology, psychology, demography, education, family law, and history.

Feature type thesaurus for Alexandria Digital Library
Terminology to categorize named locations. It is designed for use with the ADL gazetteer.

Subject headings for the International Index of Film Periodicals, with separate listings for corporate bodies and personal names.

Florida Environments Online Thesaurus

GEM controlled vocabularies

GEMET Thesaurus
From the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET).

Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) Thesaurus
Maintained by the US Library of Congress in association with database of national laws from about 35 countries.

Gnomon thesauri
Set of faceted German thesauri for classical studies databases. German language.

Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus = Thésaurus des sujets de base du Gouvernement du Canada
The GoC Core Subject Thesaurus Web site has been developed to help federal departments and agencies implement federal standards documented in the Treasury Board Common Look and Feel (CLF) Standards, one of which requires GoC web sites to adopt the five metatags (Title, Originator, Language of Resource, Date and Controlled Subject) for description of Web sites and other electronic resources. The Thesaurus assists with the controlled subject vocabulary.

HASSETHumanities And Social Sciences Electronic Thesaurus at University of Essex

  • Based upon Unesco Thesaurus, comp. J. Aitchison, Unesco, Paris, 1977 ISBN 92-3-101469-2.
  • < ahref=””>Intute: Social Sciences (formerly SOSIG) implementation.

Health and Ageing Thesaurus
Seventh ed., 2005, by Australian Department of Health and Ageing using MeSH as a basis for medical terms and creating their own in non-medical areas; First ed. was HHCS Thesaurus; it then became Human Services Thesaurus, then Health and Aged Care Thesaurus, before adopting current title for 7th ed.

Health Thesaurus
Controlled term entry point for HealthInsite.

Norwegian subject headings.

IEEE Web Thesaurus [offline at Dec 2006 check]

INFODATA [offline at Dec 2006 check] Information science, in German and English; Fachhochschule Potsdam.

Infoterm Prepared by Tor Henriksen and Bjørn Lindh
ISO/TC 46/SC3 N526 (revision 961024): Analysis, representation, storage, search and retrieval.

Availability information from IEE; covers computing and control, electronics, physics.


  • IPSVThe vocabulary developed in the UK for populating the Subject element of the e-Government Metadata Standard (e- GMS) for use with all the electronic resources produced in the UK public sector. It is fully compliant with ISO 2788 and BS 8723.


IRIS (Illinois Researcher Information Service) Thesaurus
Illinois Researcher Information Service at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign includes links to:

  • Various documentation guides for the IRIS database on funding sources
  • Hypertext Thesaurus [offline at Dec 2006 check]

International Thesaurus of Refugee Terminology in English, French and Spanish for refugee- and forced migration-related information (in print since 1988, online from 2003).


Keyword AAA: Thesaurus of general terms
State Records NSW released this thesaurus in 1995; a second edition appeared in 1998. It is supported and explained by the National Archives of Australia, endorsed as being compliant with the Australian Standard for Records Management (AS 4390). It covers terminology common to business functions and activities in most organizations. It should be used in conjunction with a thesaurus of functional terms, relating to the organization’s specific or core business functions.

LACBD subject thesaurus
Used with the Los Angeles Comprehensive Bibliographic Database that University of Southern California has produced derived from the two bibliographies: Los Angeles and its Environs in the Twentieth Century: A Bibliography of a Metropolis, Ward Ritchie Press, 1973; and Los Angeles and its Environs in the Twentieth Century: A Bibliography of a Metropolis: 1970-1990, Los Angeles City Historical Society, 1996, using MultiTes.

LCSH (Library of Congress Subject Headings)

  • Classification Web (password required)
  • LCSH via Library of Congress Catalogs, using subject browse or advanced search facilities.
  • Weekly lists. Maintained by L.C. Cataloging Policy and Support Office; these lists remain on the Web until incorporated into the Annual edition.


Life Sciences Thesaurus [offline at Dec 2006 check]
Previously freely interactive via Cambridge Scientific Abstracts Internet database service.

Library Information enquiry and Referral Network with European Business Schools Librarians Group Thesaurus.[taken offline 2001]

LIV (Legislative Indexing Vocabulary)
Introduction and Manual. Maintained for the THOMAS Bill Summary & Status files and the Library of Congress Information System (LOCIS) Federal Legislation files by the US Library of Congress Congressional Research Service.

In-house initiatives in the UK; supports thesauri including:

  • British Museum Object Names.
  • Railways Object Name (offline).
  • Waterways Object Name Thesaurus. Produced from a partnership between MDA, the curatorial staff of The Waterways Trust and colleagues from the Inland Waterways Heritage Network.

Merriam-Webster Thesaurus
MeSH: Medical Subject Headings maintained by the US National Library of Medicine.
This site has an Introduction to MeSH as well as provision for downloading of the Medical Subject Headings; Mesh is a component of the Unified Medical Language System®

MSW: Mammal Species of the World.
U.S. National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution listing of mammal species compiled under the auspices of the American Society of Mammalogists, based upon D. E. Wilson, & D. M. Reeder (eds) (1993). Mammal Species of the World. Smithsonian Institution Press.

Multilingual Egyptological Thesaurus = Thésaurus Multilingue de l’Égyptologie = Mehrsprachiger ägyptologischer Thesaurus Edited by Dirk van der Plas with the collaboration of The Committee Multilingual Egyptological Thesaurus and ICOM Comité International Pour l’Égyptologie (CIPÉG) IAE Computer Working Group, Utrecht – Paris.

NAIC Thesaurus [offline at Dec 2006 check] The U.S. Dept of Health & Human Services Thesaurus of child abuse, child welfare, and adoption terms for Clearinghouse Document records of the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

NASA Thesaurus References to print and electronic (including browsable PDF) versions of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration thesaurus.

National Monuments Record Thesauri The lead body of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and English Heritage supports these thesauri:

  • Thred (archive type and format)

National Public Health Language (NPHL) Thesaurus
Used to support HealthPromis, the bibliographic public health database of the Health Development Agency (UK).

NCBI Taxonomy Browser U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information taxonomy home page.

Occupations Thesaurus Maintained at National Library of Australia; recommended for contributions to the Register of Australian Archives and Manuscripts (RAAM).

OECD Macrothesaurus English, French, German and Spanish equivalents.

POLEX+® A police lexicon officially known as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police English-French Police Terminological Glossary = Lexique terminologique policier français-anglais de la Gendarmerie royale du Canada.

Population Multilingual Thesaurus CICRED (Comite International de Cooperation dans les Recherches Nationales en Demographie = Committee for International Cooperation in National Research in Demography) merged the word lists of Population multilingual thesaurus, Popline thesaurus and Multilingual demographic dictionary according to the recommendations of the group working on the updating of the Thesaurus which met in Paris in November 1995. In English, Spanish, or French.

Proquest Controlled vocabulary of subject terms [offline at Dec 2006 check] UMI uses controlled subject terms for precise searching of subject fields in ProQuest® databases such as ABI/INFORM®, Banking Information Source, Business Dateline®, Business Periodicals, BusinessLINK®, General Periodicals, Newspaper Abstracts, Periodical Abstracts, and Resource/One. The vocabulary may be browsed online or downloaded.

Roget’s Thesaurus

  • At
  • Roget II and Roget International at
  • Word imperfect/Simon Winchester Atlantic Monthly, May 2001 (History of the development of the Roget, and evaluation in contemporary context). SUBSCRIBERS ONLY.

Répertoire de vedettes-matière maintained at the Bibliothèque de l’Université Laval provides subscription access to about 200,000 French subject headings and their English equivalents, as well as some 30 lists of subdivisions applicable to these headings. It is a partial adaptation of CSH and LCSH.

SA Community Services Thesaurus
The South Australian Community Services Thesaurus my be consulted indirectly by linking to CISA Infosearch, selecting A-Z Services, then selecting a term alphabetically. Once a term is selected, its hierarchical arrangement is also displayed.

Schools Online Thesaurus is a product of The Le@rning Federation project, an initiative of State and Federal governments of Australia and the New Zealand government to create online interactive curriculum content, or ‘learning objects’, specifically for ANZ schools. ScOT is used to describe content in a way consistent with school education curriculum documents.

Seattle City Clerk Thesaurus

Southwest Thesaurus
University of Arizona Learning Technologies Center maintains this vocabulary describing the southwestern region of the USA.

SPIN [offline at Dec 2006 check]
InfoEd International research funding vocabulary.

Spindrift Music Thesaurus

Statistics Canada Thesaurus = Thésaurus de Statistique Canada
Bilingual subject access to the Statistics Canada Online Catalogue and to BiblioCat, the Statistics Canada Library and Information Centre’s online library catalogue.

Svenska ämnesord
Swedish subject headings and SAB codes.

TAGS – Thesaurus of Australian Government Subjects
Subject terms for use by Australian Government agencies which: covers, at a high level, subject concepts representing the scope of Australian Government activities; provides a potential source of terminology for portal browse lists; and provides a subject vocabulary which is broader than the detailed vocabularies already adopted by some agencies, but which is able to function as an introduction to those detailed vocabularies, or to serve as a controlled vocabulary for those agencies without a specialised one.

Thesaurus on Emergencies and Disasters, primarily in English and German, and based on the Australian Emergency Management Terms Thesaurus. It integrates the terminology of UDK-Thesaurus and GEMET; available following registration at the MEDIS (Mercure Environmental Distaster Information System) portal.

Terms of environment
United States Environmental Protection Agency environmental term definitions.

Tesauro de Patrimonio Histórico Andaluz
Spanish language site.

Thesaurus in engineering (in Farsi)
from IRANDOC: Iranian Information and Documentation Centre using Thesaurus Builder.

Thesaurus for Graphic Materials (TGM)

  • TGM1: Subject Terms.
  • TGMII: Genre & Physical Characteristics Terms. In print as Thesaurus for Graphic Materials. TGM I: Subject Terms. TGM II: Genre and Physical Characteristic Terms, compiled and edited by Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress, US Library of Congress, Cataloging Distribution Service, Washington, D.C., 1995, ISBN 0-8444-0889-1.

Thesaurus for the herb [offline at Dec 2006 check]

Thesaurus of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
Online version of the Thesaurus created by S.A. Hansen for the Science and Human Rights Program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems, International (HURIDOCS).

Thesaurus of Occupational Therapy Subject Headings
Co-sponsored by the American Occupational Therapy Foundation and the American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc., May 2000; this thesaurus is a reference guide for use with OT Search, an online bibliographic database which indexes the holdings of the Wilma L. West Library. It is based on MeSH.

Thesaurus of Sociological Indexing Terms [offline at Dec 2006 check]

Thesaurus Technik und Management
Fachinformation Technik thesaurus of technical terms in German.

Thinkmap Visual Thesaurus (was Plumb Design Visual Thesaurus) By clicking on words, you follow a thread of meaning, creating a spatial map of linguistic associations. The Visual Thesaurus was built using Thinkmap™, a data-animation technology developed by Plumb Design.

Transportation Research Thesaurus (TRT) (formerly ITS thesaurus)
UDK Online Thesaurus [offline at Dec 2006 check]
Thesaurus of the German/Austrian Umweltdatenkatalog (Environmental Meta Data Catalogue), in German or English.

UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT)
A project to create a subject thesaurus for the UK archive sector, being built from terms contributed by individual archives, archive projects and users.

UNESCO Thesaurus
Site enables browsing of United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation Thesaurus and provides purchasing information.

United States. National Agricultural Library

University of Adelaide Records Management Keyword Thesaurus
Functional thesaurus listing from TRIM software; based upon Keyword AAA

USAID Thesaurus

USGS Gateway to the Earth Project

VESA – Verkkosanasto; general subject headings in Finnish.

Victorian local history thesaurus
Subject terms used in Royal Historical Society of Victoria cataloguing projects.

Vocabulary of Basic Terms for Cataloguing Costume
In English, German and French by ICOM: International Committee for the Museums and Collections of Costume; it includes garments and accessories, and terms are accompanied by pictorial representations.

Used at NCVER to create index terms for the VOCED research database in the field of vocational education and training research and policy.


  • WebLaw Thesaurus
    The Legal Information Access Centre (LIAC) of the State Library of NSW has a two level list of subject headings with particular emphasis on plain English legal information. It is used by the New South Wales Attorney-General’s Lawzone project. The WebLaw project has adopted and is modifying this thesaurus.


WEDT Wordsmyth Educational Dictionary Thesaurus
American english dictionary with integrated thesaurus.

World Bank Thesaurus

Word Finders

Databases of Thesauri

Subject Analysis Systems Collection
The SAS collection of over 2000 titles on a wide variety of subjects is the North American Clearinghouse for classification schemes, subject heading lists, and thesauri. It was begun in 1924 by the Special Libraries Association and was later administered by the Bibliographic Systems Center and the School of Library Science at Case Western Reserve University. In 1976 it moved to Toronto and became part of the Inforum of the Faculty of Information Studies at the University of Toronto.

Synapse Taxonomy Warehouse
This service launched in April 2003 is a database of taxonomies, thesauri, ontologies, classification schemes, and other authority files in print or digital form. It is searchable via a classification scheme, or by publisher. Individual entries include details on characteristics including numbers of terms, notation and relationship types.

An inventory of about 600 European Commission thesauri that was maintained by Eurobrokers for I*M. It included North American examples.

  • Connect to database via telnet [NO LONGER AVAILABLE VIA ECHO FROM 1998]
  • EUROBROKERS (1992). Thesaurus guide : Analytical directory of selected vocabularies for information retrieval. 2nd ed. (EUR 14006 EN-DE-FR (1993) 1033 pp., FS, ECU 78; ISBN 92-826-4956-3; Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, L-2985 Luxembourg)

Classification Schemes


AGRICOLA subject codes
AGRICOLA subject codes used by NAL available from US Agricultural Network Information Center.

Australian New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification Codes.

Australian Standard Classification of Education. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS 1272.0

Australian Standard Classification of Occupations. Canberra: Australian Bureau of Statistics ABS 1220.0

Association for Computing Machinery Computing Reviews

ATHENA Mineralogy
Mineral lists: includes systematic mineral list ordered according to Strunz classification.

Bliss Bibliographic Classification

Broad System or Ordering: a general, faceted classification scheme for information exchange and switching … for the purpose of interconnection of information systems in the framework of the UNISIST programme.

Dewey Decimal Classification
The DDC scheme was, devised by library pioneer Melvil Dewey in the 1870s and has been owned by OCLC since 1988. It is available in print and Web versions, and theirDewey Services site provides a link to WebDewey (password).

Classified entry point to Web maintained by David Mundie.

DDC/LCSH correspondence
For new LC Subject Headings.

Scorpion Project
For automatic DDC classification of Web sites.

DTIC (U.S. Defense Technical Information Center)
Subject Categorization Guide for Defense Science & Technology

EI (Engineering Index)
EELS, the Electronic Engineering Library, Sweden, uses part of the EI classification of Engineering Information, Inc., for organizing access to Web resources.

Nice Agreement on classification of goods and services, searchable as EUROACE 2004. The 8th edition entered into force on 1 January 2002. The headings give a general indication of the goods and services and the class to which they pertain, and can be found in the eleven official languages of the EU. The explanatory notes are available in the five languages of the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market.

Klassifikation Sozialwissenschaften für FORIS und SOLIS; Social science classification in german and english for Forschungsinformationssystem Sozialwissenschaften – Research Information System for the Social Sciences, and Sozialwissenschaftliches Literaturinformationssystem – Social Science Literature Information System.

The Historical Thesaurus of English at the University of Glasgow contains the vocabulary of English from the earliest written records to the present, with first, and where appropriate, last recorded dates of usage, taken from the Oxford English Dictionary. The data are arranged semantically and chronologically. There are three main sections: and a classification has been developed for each of them: The External World, The Mind, and Society.

The World Health Organisation’s International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, tenth revision.

The World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health.

An iconographic classification system developed from the work of Henri van de Waal at the University of Leiden. It is a collection of ready-made definitions of objects, persons, events, situations and abstract ideas, that can be the subject of a work of art.

ITIS (Integrated Taxonomic Information System)
Taxonomic information on plants, animals, fungi, and microbes.

Journal of Economic Literature (JEL) Classification System.

The JITA Classification Schema has been developed starting from a merger of NewsAgentTopic Classification Scheme and the RIS classification scheme of the former Review of Information Science. JITA is an acronym of the authors’ first names: Jose Manuel Barrueco Cruz, Imma Subirats Coll, Thomas Krichel and Antonella De Robbio.

LCC: Library of Congress Classification (U.S.).
Originally developed for the printed holdings of the Library of Congress and now used by many other libraries, LCC covers all fields of knowledge.

  • guide
  • Classification Web (Password required)
  • Outline at L.C. Cataloging Policy and Support Office
  • Outline by M.L. McCaffrey [offline at Dec 2006 check]

London Business School Library
Concept Space: a visual interface to a formal framework for describing business literature, based on a hierarchical map of the business studies subject area; developed for the Library by TLA Ltd.

The Mathematical Atlas
This ‘gateway to modern mathematics’ maintained by Dave Rusin includes global view schematics, and a subject classification scheme along with introductory essays, search facilities, and browsable subject indices.

MISQ information systems scheme
Complete print version MIS Quarterly (June 1993)(Vol. 17, No. 2).

MSC: Mathematics subject classification
For Mathematical Reviews (MR) and Zentralblatt MATH (Zbl). MSC2000 is a revision of the 1991 Mathematics Subject Classification.

NAICS: North American Industry Classification System, for USA, Canada and Mexico.

Nederlandse Basisclassificatie (BC)
The BC scheme is used to organize the DutchESS (Dutch Electronic Subject Service). An outline may be viewed using the Browse button.

NTEE Classification System
The National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities – Core Codes, a classification scheme for tax-exempt organisations in the U.S.A., developed by the National Center for Charitable Statistics; includes concordances with NAICS and with IRS activity codes.

Optical Society of America (OSA) Optics Classification and Indexing Scheme

Physics and Astronomy Classification Scheme of the American Institute of Physics.

Regensburger Verbundklassifikation-Online
Library scheme of Universitätsbibliothek Regensburg. German language site.

RIS Classification [offline at Dec 2006 check]
For Review of Information Science by Dagobert Soergel, Oct. 1996.

SOC: Standard Occupational Classification System
U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics scheme for Federal statistical agencies to classify workers into occupational categories for the purpose of collecting, calculating, or disseminating data. To facilitate classification, occupations are combined to form 23 major groups, 96 minor groups, and 449 broad occupations.

SCOP: Structural Classification Of Proteins

SHIC: Social History and Industrial Classification
A subject classification for museum cataloguing in the UK, created in the early 1980s by the SHIC Working Party which has continued to develop it; The website includes links to a demonstration version and details on obtaining full version.

United States patent classification
Manual of classification of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

UDC (Universal Decimal Classification)
A multilingual classification scheme for all fields of knowledge, adapted by Otlet La Fontaine from the Dewey Decimal Classification, and first published (in French) from 1904 to 1907. Since then, it has been extensively revised and developed. The code itself is independent of any particular language or script, and the accompanying class descriptions have appeared in many translated versions.

United Nations Statistics Division Classification Registry
The registry keeps updated information on statistical classifications maintained by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). Alphabetical indexes are available for some classifications. UNSD also maintains List of International Family of Economic and Social Classifications that includes profile descriptions for other classifications such as ANZSIC, not maintained by UNSD. A table of UNSD’s Available classifications by language includes versions in several languages.
English language versions include:

  • Activity classification
    • ISIC International Standard Industrial Classification of all economic activities, revision 3.1
  • Product classification
    • BEC Broad Economic Categories, revision 3
    • CPC Central Product Classification ver 1.1
    • SITC Standard International Trade Classification, revision 3
  • Expenditure according to purpose
    • COFOG Classification Of the Functions Of Government
    • COICOP Classification Of Individual COnsumption according to Purpose
    • COPNI Classification Of the Purposes of Non-profit Institutions serving households
    • COPP Classification of the Outlays of producers According to Purpose

UNSPSC (Universal Standard Products and Services Code)
The Universal Standard Products and Services Code was created when the United Nations Development Program and Dun & Bradstreet merged their separate commodity classification codes into a single open system. The Code classifies both products and services for use throughout the global marketplace. The code is managed by GS1 US (formerly Uniform Code Council).

United States National Technical Information Service
SIC: Standard Industrial Classifications at Information Technology Associates

WIPO: World Intellectual Property Organisation

ZDM (Zentralblatt für Didaktik der Mathematik)
International Reviews on Mathematical Education subject classification scheme.

Subject retrieval techniques

A thesaurus is an essential component for reliable information retrieval, but it can usefully be complemented by two other types of subject retrieval mechanism.

Classification schemes.

While a thesaurus inherently contains a classification of terms in its hierarchical relationships, it is intended for specific retrieval, and it is often useful to have another way of grouping objects. This may relate to administrative distribution of responsibility for “collections” within a museum, or to subdivisions of these collections into groups which depend on local emphasis. It is also often necessary to be able to print a list of objects arranged by subject in a way which differs from the alphabetical order of thesaurus terms. Each subject group may be expressed as a compound phrase, and given a classification number or code to make sorting possible.

Free text.

It is highly desirable to be able to search for specific words or phrases which occur in object descriptions. These may identify individual items by unique words such as trade names which do not occur often enough to justify inclusion in the thesaurus. A computer system may “invert” some or all fields of the record, i.e. making all the words in them available for searching through a free-text index, or it may be possible to scan records by reading them sequentially while looking for particular words. The latter process is fairly slow, but is a useful way of refining a search once an initial group has been selected by using thesaurus terms.


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