Gloss, glossing, glossary

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when annotating a piece of writing, a gloss is like a side note in a text, explaining what the term means in the language being written in, in various forms[1], including:

  • a word in quotes or the margin of a text that mentions the translation, of the lexeme or of the literal, e.g. inflected form
  • a parallel, word-for-word translation, the common form in linguist analysis; see e.g. [2]
  • translation including details up to inflection, even etymology and cross-references(verify).

In linguistics, this can be more specifically about word-aligned parallel sentences, marking meanings and grammatical properties at a per-word basis ...and may have some conventions, sometimes made into guidelines to follow (e.g. [3]).


  • in linguistics, refers to adding annotation of this type
  • ...or, outside of linguistics, to generalize or obfuscate or hide something by 'glossing over details, glossing ideas'.

Interlinear glosses refers to such annotations in translations or other side-by-side texts. [4]

Glossary can be used in the more general meaning of 'a collection of glosses' (dictionary-like), but often turns up in a more specific 'list of technical terms with their definitions, for this specific book/paper/topic' in particular for things that may be unfamiliar [5]

See also diglossia.