What are ontologies and if so, how many?

In many projects we notice that the demand for ontologies in the terminology field is increasing. But why actually? What are ontologies? How can terminology and ontology be combined? Do you need ontologies – and if so: one or more?

Where does the term ontology come from?

„Ontology is the philosophical study of being“. The subject of ontology is the structuring of reality.

With this basic idea the concept of ontology was taken up in information science: Here, ontology is defined as „a representation, formal naming, and definition of the categories, properties, and relations between the concepts, data, and entities that substantiate one, many, or all domains.“ The information structured in this way can be used as a basis for semantic search queries in knowledge-based applications, for example.

Interesting: In philosophy we speak of one ontology, since the whole world is to be systematically recorded – in computer science we speak of several ontologies, since here the use of ontologies is always earmarked for a specific purpose. An example: We would like an ontological application for finding restaurants on a tourism website. A division of the dishes into vegan and non-vegan would be relevant for this. The extension of ontology to the motives for vegan nutrition is not relevant. If required, you can create your own ontology.

What do ontologies have to do with terminology?

Ontologies can be used to expand terminology databases from knowledge representation for humans to knowledge representation for machines. For example, the terms and information collected in the terminology database can be used for searching in the company’s online shop. An important part of ontologies is the linking of terms via types, objects and relations. The linked information opens up new perspectives in the field of optimized knowledge management.

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