Terminology Management Guide: How to Build a Termbase

Chidinma Egwuogu
20 Dec 2023

6 min. read


Imagine translating a medical text. New terms. Endless medical jargon. And worst of all, your translations have to be not only accurate but also consistent.

Now imagine the source text is over 20,000 words long. Keeping track of all the terms and applying them consistently becomes a veritable challenge. Unless, of course, you use terminology management systems.

Ahead is a beginner-friendly guide to terminology management. By the end of it, you will learn how to build your own termbase.

Let’s get started!

Pro tip: Do away with the manual grind. Maintain consistent and accurate terminology automatically using a localization management system. Learn more.

What is terminology management?

what is terminology management Terminology management is the process of identifying, collecting, and organizing corporate or professional terms. The process of terminology management might be as simple as making a list of terms and their equivalents in a target language. But it can also be as complex as creating idea maps and diagrams to show how terms are related to one another.

At the heart of terminology management is a termbase. This is a structured repository for specialized terms, along with their definitions, contextual information, and usage guidelines.

Termbase vs glossary vs translation memory

Translators frequently mix up the terms 'termbase', 'glossary', and 'translation memory.’ To help you understand and apply the terms correctly, here's an easy-to-follow comparison table.

Termbase Glossary Translation Memory
Description A detailed database that looks like a catalog with multiple fields for each term A simple list, similar to a dictionary, with terms and their meanings or translations A bilingual archive showing original texts alongside their translations
Content Terms with in-depth definitions, context, usage rules, and sometimes translations Terms with brief definitions or translations Segments of text paired with their translations
Purpose To ensure accurate and consistent use of specialized terms For a quick look-up of term meanings or translations Speeds up translation by reusing past translations
Updates Regularly updated to reflect current terminology and usage Updated as needed, but not as frequently Constantly grows with each new translation project
Complexity Comprehensive and detailed Simpler, often less detailed Complex, as it relies on context and past translations

Why you need a terminology management system

Terminology management systems provide numerous benefits for businesses dealing with multilingual content, such as product documentation, marketing materials, or technical manuals.

It helps businesses to:

1. Avoid miscommunication

People communicating at a table Source: Pexels

Miscommunication in business can be costly. According to a study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, 44% of respondents reported that miscommunication had caused a delay or failure to complete projects.

Terminology management ensures that everyone is on the same page, using the same terms for the same concepts, drastically reducing the chances of costly errors.

Inconsistent use of terms can also cause irreparable damage. For instance, a healthcare survey found that 30% of malpractice claims involved communication failures. A solid terminology management system keeps terms consistent across all communications, enhancing clarity, and reducing the risk of misunderstandings.

2. Improve customer satisfaction

Thumbs-up next to a graph Source: Pexels

Terminology management is especially important for businesses looking for customers internationally.

A CSA Research report indicated that 76% of consumers prefer to buy products with information in their language. Thus, when businesses use language and terms familiar to their customers, they enhance the customer experience, boosting loyalty and sales.

For instance, Amazon customizes its site and product descriptions to fit local languages and terms, making shopping easier and more relatable for customers worldwide.

3. Maintain brand consistency

a brandbook Source: Pexels

Effective terminology management ensures that the same terms and phrases are used across all company materials. This uniformity is crucial for brand recognition and customer trust.

A 2021 study by Marq found that companies with consistent branding across all platforms saw a 23% average increase in revenue.

Consider Apple's product manuals, ads, and customer support. Despite operating in multiple countries, their terminology remains unmistakably consistent, reinforcing their brand identity.

4. Achieve efficiency in content production

A person shooting a video Source: Pexels

A centralized terminology database helps content creators avoid reinventing the wheel with each new project.

When content creators have a go-to list of terms, they don't have to waste time figuring out how to translate concepts and what degree of formality to use with their audience. This makes their work a lot faster and easier.

A real-life example is how software development companies, like Microsoft, keep their software documentation consistent. Proper terminology management helps them release multilingual products faster.

5. Navigate legal compliance

A person signing a legal document Source: Pexels

In highly regulated industries, using the correct terms is not just good practice, but a legal requirement.

The use of correct terminology ensures clarity and keeps companies on the right side of regulations. For instance, pharmaceutical companies must adhere to strict terminology in their packaging and informational leaflets to meet FDA standards and avoid legal issues.

Terminology management also enhances translation and localization efficiency, significantly cutting costs. It delivers clear, consistent communication, reducing errors and the need for revisions, which saves time and money for businesses expanding into other markets.

How to build a termbase

To build a termbase, use professional localization software like Centus to avoid manual grind and ensure consistent use of terms throughout your content. Once you’ve chosen localization software, select terms and define them clearly. Then, add context and usage guidelines. Finally, review the terms and share them with content creators, editors, and translators in your organization.

Let’s dive deeper into a termbase creation:

Term selection

  • Start by figuring out which terms are important for your business. These could be industry-specific jargon, brand names, technical terms, or even commonly used phrases in your company.
  • This stage involves extensive research and cross-department communication. Do not rush it.


  • Once you've got your list of terms, the next step is to define them clearly. This means writing down what each term means in a way that everyone can understand.
  • Take "cloud computing,” for example. You can define it as "delivery of processing power, storage, and software over the internet"

Context and usage guidelines

  • Provide context for each term. This might include sentence examples or notes on appropriate usage.
  • Establish guidelines for usage to ensure consistency. This could involve specifying preferred synonyms or advising against common misunderstandings.

Review and approval

  • Have experts or key team members review the terms and definitions to ensure they are accurate and comprehensive.
  • This step often involves a bit of back-and-forth as terms are refined and perfected.

Sharing and management

  • After your terms are selected and defined, you need to manage them. This involves keeping the termbase updated and ensuring correct term usage.
  • The easiest way to share and maintain a termbase is with the help of localization management systems. Such tools are designed to simplify the translation process, ensuring consistent term application across all content.

Termbase example

Here’s how a typical termbase looks like:

Term Part of speech Definition Context/example usage Translation (Spanish)
Blockchain Noun A system of recording information in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to change "Blockchain technology is revolutionizing digital security." "Cadena de bloques"
Compliance Noun Adherence to laws and regulations governing industry practices "Our compliance with environmental standards is strict." "Cumplimiento"
ROI Acronym Return on Investment; a measure of profitability "The ROI for this project exceeded expectations." "Retorno de Inversión"
Widget Noun A small gadget or mechanical device "Our new line of kitchen widgets is now available." "Artilugio"

Note: This is just one way to organize a termbase. You can customize it to fit your specific needs.

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