• Galina Blankenship

Common Terms Used in the Language Industry and Linguistics

Updated: Mar 17

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Nabokov's Quote: "What is translation? On a platter A poet’s pale and glaring head, A parrot’s screech, a monkey’s chatter, And profanation of the dead."
Vladimir Nabokov (1899–1977), Russian and American novelist, poet, translator, and entomologist

The limits of my language mean the limits of my world. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophic


Abbreviations: An abbreviation is a shortened form of a word.

Acronyms: An acronym is a term that’s made from the first letters of a phrase and pronounced as a single word.

Accismus: Someone pretending they don’t want something they really do. For example, numerous book covers that loudly proclaim: “Do not read this book!”

Acrostic: A poem or series of lines in which certain letters, usually the first in each line, form a name, motto, or message when read in sequence.

Adjective: A word that describes a noun (small woman, tall man, windy day).

Adverb: A word that describes a verb (walk quickly, read slowly), another adverb (walk very quickly, read quite slowly), or an adjective (a very small woman, a remarkably tall man).

Adynaton: A declaration of impossibility for effect, usually an exaggerated comparison with a more obvious impossibility. “I will sooner have a beard grow in the palm of my hand than he shall get one of his cheek.” — William Shakespeare.

Alliteration: Words using the same letter for musical, mnemonic or immersive effect. In this example “sibilance” (the repetitive use of the letter “s”) is also employed: “She sells seashells by the seashore.”

Allusion: An indirect reference to a place, event, or text by way of easily understood emphasis. “Watch out for the estate agents’ noses growing as they describe the property” a direct allusion to Pinocchio.

Amphigory: Nonsense writing, usually in verse. “Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe; All mimsy were the borogoves, And the mome raths outgrabe.” — Lewis Carroll, “Jabberwocky.”

Analysis: Process of source-text analysis, before and/or during the translation process.

Analogy: The illustration of an idea by using a more familiar comparison. “The Conservative cabinet reshuffle was akin to the band on the Titanic switching instruments.”

Anthropomorphism: The attribution of human behaviour to non-human things. For example, cartoons that include animal characters using human speech and mimicking human behaviour, often to encourage emotional connection, such as “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King.”

Antonym: A word of opposite meaning. “Love” as the antonym of “hate.”

Apocryphal: A fabricated but engaging story meant to impart a serious, often moral, point via suggested authenticity. For example, a made-up disaster featuring an imaginary driver meant to dissuade people against drink-driving. “Bob had five pints and then left me in the pub, only later to crash his Ford Focus into a chip-shop. You shouldn’t drink and drive!”

Aporia: An often insincere or rhetorical expression of doubt, about what a speaker should say, think, or do. “Oh no! Whatever shall I do now?”

Archaism: Translation technique or strategy involving the deliberate use of archaic forms in the target language; a form that is the result of such a technique.

Artificial intelligence: Branch of computer science devoted to creating intelligent machines that produced the first efforts toward machine translation.

Assonance: The repetition of the same or similar vowel sounds within words, phrases, or sentences. For example, She seems to beam rays of sunshine with her eyes of green.

ATA: American Translator's Association.

Attribute: A property defined and applied to a Translation Memory units/segment to help sequence retrieval. Attributes are also those fields that define and qualify term bases.

Automatic retrieval: TMs are searched and displayed automatically as a translator moves through a document.


Babblative: Given to babbling; prattling, prating, loquacious.

Back-translation: A translation of a translated text back into the language of the original text, made without reference to the original text. In the context of machine translation, this is also called a round-trip translation. It is analogous to reversing a mathematical operation; but even in mathematics such a reversal frequently does not produce a value that is precisely identical with the original.


Computer-Aided Translation (CAT) (computer-assisted, machine-aided or -assisted): Translation with the aid of computer programs, such as translation memory, terminology management and localization tools, designed to reduce the translator's workload and increase consistency of style and terminology. Not to be confused with machine translation!

Certification: A process by which a certifying body (a governmental or professional organization) attests to or certifies that an individual is qualified to provide a particular service. Certification calls for formal assessment, using an instrument that has been tested for validity and reliability, so that the certifying body can be confident that the individuals it certifies have the qualifications needed to do the job.

Cliché: An overused saying or idea which has lost its original meaning or power. For example: Time heals all wounds.

Colloquialism (slang): Slang and colloquialisms are informal, nonstandard words or phrases that are used in informal, ordinary conversation but not in formal speech or writing and are identified in standard dictionaries as “slang,” “colloquialism,” or “informal.”

Concordance: This feature allows translators to select one or more words in the source segment and the system retrieves segment pairs that match the search criteria. This feature is helpful for finding translations of terms and idioms in the absence of a terminology database.

Conference interpretation: Simultaneous interpreting of a speaker’s statements at a conference, symposium, or any other large meeting.

Conjunction: A word that connects other words or parts of a sentence (and, or, but, since, because, etc.).

Consecutive interpretation: One of three modes of interpreting (along with simultaneous and sight interpretation), in which a speaker pauses every few sentences