Introduction to Translation Glossary Best Practices

What is a glossary, why to use it and how to use Localazy translation glossary? Find out!

Glossary is a feature of every useful computer-assisted translation tool (CAT). Glossary keeps translations precise across many different cultures and thus is essential for successful app localization. Before we start with a tutorial on how to define a glossary for your project, let’s explain what glossary is.

What glossary does mean? 🔗

A glossary, also known as a vocabulary or clavis, is an alphabetical list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with the definitions for those terms. Traditionally, a glossary appears at the end of a book and includes terms within that book that are either newly introduced, uncommon, or specialized. While glossaries are most commonly associated with non-fiction books, in some cases, fiction novels may come with a glossary for unfamiliar terms.

A bilingual glossary is a list of terms in one language defined in a second language or glossed by synonyms (or at least near-synonyms) in another language.

Source: Wikipedia

Translation glossary makes sure that translations, especially in multilingual environments, are subject to tone and meaning consistency. Mainly meaning consistency is of vital importance for quality assurance of every translation process.

When understanding gets wrong 🔗

Globalization costs something, and if there is something screwed in the process, the costs may even arise. Still, they can ruin the business due to many reasons, such as Brand blunder or documentation misunderstanding USD 4 million crash of Zenssor211.

Up to 15% of all globalization project costs arise from rework, and the primary cause of rework is inconsistent terminology. Lionbridge

While fun to say, the catchphrase the company chose, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux,” just didn’t convey an especially strong message about product quality or instil an abundance of confidence in performance. - Electrolux

And we could continue. Those huge gimmicks are significant samples of how localization can get wrong, but even small issues can produce confusion. For that reason, localization specialists and quality control should be in place. There are even frameworks such as PDCA for continuous improvement to make sure language is not a barrier!

It sometimes may seem funny, but nothing is closer to a disaster than misunderstanding or misinterpretation. Language dictionaries always include pronunciation for a reason. Translation tools include a glossary with a description of the context to make sure translators do their job right without guesswork.

How to understand glossary benefits 🔗

Let us show you a clear example of how glossary can help your translation contributors understand and translate your phrases in the right way with no guesswork included.

Few key benefits of having a glossary 🔗

Fully understand the meaning of the phrase by context

Button with the phrase “Book”

Source language and meaning: EN - can be a verb, to make a reservation

Target language and meaning: CS - can be a noun, book for reading

There are a whole plethora of occurrences in every imaginable industry. For example, Drive in the transport industry means something different from drive in IT industry, and there are even more subtle nuances an average translator without deep niche experience can not be expected to know by default. Imagine medical, technical, or business niches.

Quicken the translation process 🔗

As a freelance translator myself (author of this article), I do know how time-consuming and flow disturbing is when source phrase description is not precise. Connected with the next point, guesswork, having an accurate glossary can save tremendous amounts of time spent on clarifications and rework.

Remove guesswork > mitigate the risk of rework 🔗

If a contributor does not have enough information about the context and desired meaning of a given phrase, there is a portion of guesswork. Guesswork makes places for assumptions based on previous experience, which can be different from the desired result. Eliminate guesswork, and you will mitigate the risk of rework, dropped user experience, et cetera.

Improve the user experience 🔗

Chaotic navigation, unclear button texts, terrible text-breaks and other leaks in UX design may source from localization and especially wrong translation. The glossary can make sure that all mission-critical phrases are consistent across all languages. If your UX is subpar, your business results may drop as well.

Improve business results 🔗

If there are 500 languages, and you need to make sure your call to action button in the app does have the right meaning, we advise using native speakers instead of Machine Translation without human control.

While Fully Automatic High-Quality Machine Translation with no human involvement is indeed a powerful tool, it can easily miss the subtle nuances and change the meaning of your CTA button, resulting in conversion rate dropdown. In the words of UX, it will decrease desired behaviour. Although there are solutions, they are not very common in all translations tools.

If you have a large repository of high-quality multilingual terminology data, you can reduce the amount of data necessary for training a machine-translation (MT) engine to obtain acceptable results. —Elena Dunne

Decreased need for discipline 🔗

When a particular phrase must be used consistently across the whole project, a vast amount of self-discipline is something your contributors have to commit. But is there a way how to enforce discipline, especially if your contributors are short-term volunteers who do not know about all bits and bobs of your mobile app? No way. Glossary will help you keep them in line with your guidelines.

Best practices for glossary production 🔗

First and foremost, a glossary is a living document. Do not be too sad about the fact that your glossary is not complete. Glossary is a compelling feature because it allows you to change the term globally across the whole project just by changing a single glossary term.

Mutually exclusive glossary 🔗

Mutually exclusive means that every single term must be present in your glossary only once.

Each term must be isolated.

Correct each term is isolated and occurs only once “Book” a “Flight”

Wrong terms are not isolated and occur more than once “Book a flight.” “book”, “flight”

Collectively exhaustive glossary 🔗

The glossary contains all the terms requiring definitions. In the words of a developer, the glossary is a single source of truth.

Correct Glossary is the only source of term meanings

Wrong You have a glossary and another unsynced term documentation.

Brief glossary 🔗

An extensive glossary can be counterproductive. Not only that it requires somebody to build it, but it can also decrease the positive benefits for contributors if there are many terms, which do not have to be necessarily included.

Correct Glossary describing terms which need to be better described

Wrong Glossary describing all terms in the app

Product-specific glossary 🔗

Glossary is, in most cases, a product-specific feature. Thus, connected to the previous point, it does not have to include all terms, especially those which are common. For example, Localazy is translation platform, and thus we know that many of our users are quite familiar with some terms already, but not all of them.

Correct ShareTM - description of Localazy proprietary technology

Wrong Translation Memory - description of a technology in everyday practice

Contextual glossary 🔗

Glossary is usually private and tied to a particular project unless you are going to use a shared glossary. That said, you can use your glossary not only to provide a term meaning but also to provide some context in the term description field.

While all CAT tools always provide context information for developers within translation screens, they are not as useful for average contributors who do not know the structure of the app code, URI’s, and so on.

What should be in your glossary before you invite contributors 🔗

App name, so we know how to treat it

It is pretty usual that the app name can be easily translated into many languages. Question is if this is the desired behaviour. Translating your app name will most likely turn into brand misconceptions. But if it is your ASO strategy, It is also fine to let your contributors know that app name shall be translated.

Names of specific features

App-specific features are glossary must-have. You want to clearly describe the feature and also tell your contributors whether to translate it and how. It is especially important if contributors are not app users.

Technologies, abbreviations

Make sure technology terms and abbreviations are defined in your glossary.

Specific terms for your industry

Industry-specific terms are usually a reason why glossary is important. It is of vital importance to provide clarification for any and all industry-specific terms. Do not let your contributors guess the true meaning. A single term can mean something completely different when switched into a different context.

3rd party services and names

There are a whole plethora of 3rd party services and names which shall not be translated despite it is possible. For example, a revenue delivery platform Paddle can be translated, but it is not the desired behaviour.


Trademarks shall be always marked in your glossary to not be translated because in other cases you will lose the brand protection.

Takeaway 🔗

While glossary may include the context in term of phrase meaning, language tonality, specific niche and so on, context related to the usage of particular phrase appearances shall be present in the source code. Read more on how to provide comments in your source code and why.

How To Use Localazy Glossary 🔗

Localazy Glossary is quite similar in function to any standard translation glossary.

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