If your company works in more than one language or wishes to do so in the future, making sure you are using the right terminology for all of your documentation and products can make a huge difference in the success of your multinational endeavor. This is why, in this article, we’ll focus on the key strategy to help you accomplish this: translation glossaries.

We’ll cover what a translation glossary is, its benefits, how you can make your own, and also look at some real-life examples.

  1. What is a translation glossary?
  2. Benefits of having a translation glossary
    1. Saves time
    2. Saves costs
    3. Consistency
    4. Maintains brand identity
  3. How do I create a translation glossary?
    1. Who creates the translation glossary?
    2. Identify the key terms to include
    3. Explain the terms
    4. Translate the terms
    5. Keep your glossary updated
    6. What a translation glossary should include
  4. How to create a translation glossary in a spreadsheet
  5. Translation glossary best practices
    1. Avoid repetition
    2. Keep it brief
    3. Make it product-specific
    4. Make sure to add “non-translatables”
    5. Consider locales
  6. Final thoughts

What is a translation glossary?

A translation glossary is a collection of standardized terms used in a business or product. The glossary includes the terms in the source language (the language in which your business or product was first launched) and the relevant translations for the other languages your company works in (also known as “target languages”).

In addition to the most adequate translations of these terms, a translation glossary may also include how not to translate a certain word or phrase or extra information or references about it.

The main purpose of a translation glossary is to make sure that specific terms are translated correctly and consistently.

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Benefits of having a translation glossary

You might be wondering why you should go through all the trouble of creating a glossary. Well, there are plenty of reasons why it’s in your business’ best interest. Here are the main benefits of having a translation glossary.

Saves time

When there is not a translation glossary available, translators will spend more time researching terminology which may have already been established. Moreover, they may need to ask you questions to make sure they are using the right terminology, which will take up even more time.

If you have standardized terminology in your business, creating a glossary together will simplify the translation process and save you a lot of time and effort in the long term.

Saves costs

As we’ve mentioned, having a translation glossary is a time-saver. As we know, time is money, so this translates into saving costs as well.


A word in your source language can have many possible translations in the target language. Having a translation glossary helps keep terminology consistent through all texts related to your business or a specific product. This is particularly helpful when more than one translator is working on the same target language.

Consistency is important to avoid confusion and to provide a better user experience for your clients.

Maintains brand identity

The terminology you use gives your business a specific voice and is part of your brand identity. This is what makes you recognizable to your clients or users by setting you apart from your competitors. If this terminology is inconsistent, you are putting your brand identity at risk.

A translation glossary ensures the same terminology is used throughout your messaging helping you assert your brand identity.

How do I create a translation glossary?

Translation glossaries come in many shapes and sizes, but there are some steps that they all have in common. Below, we explain how to create your own translation glossary. But first, let’s focus on who should be involved in this process.

Who creates the translation glossary?

Carefully selecting who is involved in the creation of your translation glossary is key to having the best possible end product. There should be a mix of internal staff and external resources working on your glossary.

You should include internal linguists in this process as they will be the ones most acquainted with the terminology used in company documentation and products and their adequate translation. You should also consider internal specialists as they will be the ones with a better understanding of the terms used by the company and their knowledge will be vital to ensure accuracy. Finally, if you collaborate with external translators or a language service provider, their experience in the specific field means they can offer valuable input for the creation of the glossary.

Now that we know who will take part in the creation of the glossary, let’s dive into the steps the process entails.

Identify the key terms to include

The first thing you should do is identify the key terms you want to include. These can be terms specific to your brand or product, or terms that have a specific translation within your business context.

Here are some of the key terms you should include:

  • Company-specific vocabulary
  • Acronyms and abbreviations
  • Corporate slogans
  • Product/Service names
  • Common industry language
  • Any term you wish to keep in the source language
  • Terms you use often

Explain the terms

Now that you have your terminology, you’ll need to provide some information or context for the translators.

Some useful information includes the subject (i.e., the field or area the term belongs to), the part of speech (e.g., adjective, verb, etc.), the definition, and a usage note (i.e., how the word is used in the specific context).

Translate the terms

The next step in the process is to translate the terms into the relevant target languages. Make sure you get highly-qualified translators for this task as the terminology needs to be accurate as it will be used in all of your texts or communications.

Keep your glossary updated

Translation glossaries are a constant work in progress. You may start using new terminology or add new products or services with their own set of key terms. This means that your translation glossary will need to be regularly updated to make sure it is still relevant and includes everything your translators need to deliver the best possible result. Although it may sound cumbersome, this is definitely worth your while.

What a translation glossary should include

We have touched upon what a translation glossary should include above, but let’s do a short recap.

  • Your key terms in your source language
  • Definitions and explanations
  • Preferred translations
  • What should not be translated

How to create a translation glossary in a spreadsheet

The simplest way to create your translation glossary is to do so in a spreadsheet-type file, such as Excel or Googles Sheets.

You will place each item in a column like this:

  • First column: The source language terms
  • Second column: The relevant definition for each term
  • Third column (and following columns): Your preferred translations for each term. Depending on the languages you work with and if you are keeping a glossary for each language or not, this might be just one column or several columns (one for each target language).
  • Optional column: Any relevant notes you would like to add.

As you can see, it’s quite simple. Your glossary does not need to be too complex to be useful.

Translation glossary best practices

Here are some extra tips to help you create the best possible translation glossary.

Avoid repetition

Terms can, of course, have more than one possible translation depending on the context. However, it would be best if you made sure source terms only appear once in your translation glossary.

Keep it brief

You should include all relevant terms in your glossary, but only those. Your glossary should be comprehensive, but not over-reaching. Creating an extensive glossary can prove to be time-consuming and unnecessary.

Make it product-specific

If you offer various products that have different terminology, it is advisable to have a translation glossary for each of them. This also applies if your company works in different fields, like law and patents. Having product or project-specific glossaries ensures the right terminology is used in each context.

Make sure to add “non-translatables”

You may think that terms that remain the same in the target language don’t need to be included in your translation glossary. However, it is important that you do include these. This will avoid any confusion when it comes to their translation.

Consider locales

A locale represents the language and the place where the language is spoken. Spanish, for example, is spoken in quite a few countries and terminology varies depending on the country or region. Therefore, it is important to know where the translations will be read and if you need to include the different locales in your glossary.

Final thoughts

As you can see, translation glossaries can prove to be a very beneficial tool. They can save you time and money while making sure you get the right message across to your clients or users.

We hope this article has given you enough reasons for creating a translation glossary and the relevant information to help you get started with it.

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Updated July 26, 2022 in Translation