The word “glossary” comes from the noun “glossa” (footnote), because glossaries originally contained glosses to expressions or entire phrases, made by the scribe while transcribing manuscripts.
Nowadays, the glossaries are primarily used to maintain the consistency of terminology used in the translation of specialised texts. It’s particularly useful in cases of unconventional terms and when technical documentation is translated.
When we are dealing with a smaller task, a simple list of terms can be used as a glossary, but in the case of larger projects, we have special programmes built for this purpose.
What is the difference between glossary and dictionary?
A glossary differs from a dictionary mainly in its conciseness. Terms here are translated on a one-to-one basis. Each expression has exactly one translation. Unlike dictionary, where many different meanings for a single term are possible.
Besides, a glossary has no fixed volume. It often changes and develops. It has a working character. Its content is constantly updated and adapted to the needs of next translation projects.
What should a glossary look like?
Above all, a glossary should be transparent and unambiguous. It should not contain duplicates. The smaller the volume of the glossary, the faster and more efficiently it will help us work with the translation. Therefore, it should not contain terms generally available in ordinary specialised dictionaries.
A good glossary contains not only the translation and definition of a specific expression, but also a context that helps to use the terms correctly. For convenience, it may also include a list of words to remain untranslated, such as proper nouns.
When and why do we use it?
A glossary is necessary mainly in situations where the translated text uses a nomenclature that is different from the one that is commonly used in the industry. If the client requires the use of specific terms in the translated content, their range should be specified at the very beginning of the cooperation with the translation agency.
The institutions that frequently commission translations usually have their own glossaries. A client who constantly cooperates with a specific translation agency can be sure that the translated content will use the required terminology, and that particular words will always be defined by the same terms. This ensures consistency and good quality of the translated texts.