When browsing here, I see a lot of terms with which I'm unfamiliar. Has the community here created anything similar to the glossaries on cooking and on bicycles?

Barring this, are there particularly well-regarded reference sources for this?


4 Answers 4


Pending more technologically advanced solutions (such as those mentioned in the answers posted here), I've started a manual glossary. Please contribute to it!


We should have a glossary. Every user should be able to send words they don't know to the glossary, and the knowledgeable users can write a definition.

This way only words that are actually used on the site will appear in the glossary.

There would also be a way to link words, so that (for example) different transliterations of the same word would be linked.

I'm imagining something like the NYT quote bubbles Dori describes in her post, but instead of connecting them to tags, they would be connnected to Glossary entries. Each entry would have the entry and definition. This could be used for words and concepts. In addition, I'm really excited about using such a system to give glossary style definitions to people and books quoted, so that we could easily have context when quoting someone. (e.g. if an opinion is quoted from the Rashba and another opinion from the Mishnah Berura, the glossary information could tell us when and where the authors lived, and when the sefer was published.)


As discussed in the past (see further down along that page also, e.g. to this and this), there is interest having some sort of automatic glossary on the site. Perhaps Dori or someone else who works for SE can weigh in with the prospects on that (including a possible ETA), so we can know whether it's worthwhile starting a 'manual' one meanwhile.


In my opinion…

Short term:

I think that the right place for this type of information is the tag wiki.

For example, if you want to know what muktzeh means, just hover over the tag on main:

(A mouse hovering over the 'muktzeh' tag on a question, and a tooltip showing more information about the tag.)

Longer term:

The NY Times web site has a feature where, when you select a word or phrase, a little ? bubble appears:

If you click on the bubble, you get a definition of your selection. (A mouse hovering over a highlighted word in running text, and a tooltip showing a link to more information.)

I'd love to see similar functionality on Stack Exchange. That is, you'd highlight some text, and if there's a tag with the name of the selected text, and that tag has a wiki entry, a similar popup would appear showing the definition from the tag wiki.

This would actually be useful on a number of SE sites, not just this one. For instance, if I was reading a post on cooking.se, I could highlight sous vide and see:

(A tooltip with more information about sous vide.)

Short or long term, though, there's a problem:

Unfortunately, this site's tag wiki isn't suitable for either approach, due to the odd way tags are used here. I understand the historical reasons for your tags (the site began as a SE1.0 site which didn't have synonyms); what I don't understand is why they're still like that.

[Okay, okay, I understand the most likely reason… tradition!]

But really, what does the tag accomplish that the tag and the synonym wouldn't?

  • seforim-books isn't a great example, since "seforim" doesn't say much in this context that "books" doesn't. And we have plenty of other tags with embedded syllables, some in the same language, that I agree are unnecessarily in that form. However, for tags like minhag-tradition-custom or choshen-mishpat-civil-law, I think it's useful to have the primary tag name include both the Hebrew term, for which there is no concise and complete English translation and a translation, so all readers can know what it refers to at a glance.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 4:44
  • @Isaac - To me, most of this site's tags do appear to be groups of synonyms. And sadly, the odd tag usage doesn't just keep the usual SE tag-based glossary concept from working, it's also part of what makes this site bewildering to the newly-interested.
    – Dori
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 4:56
  • Why does this format keep that concept from working, assuming that the Hebrew terms are also synonimized, by themselves, to the so-formatted main tag names? (Multiplicity of possibly transliterations is probably a much bigger implementation barrier here.) How are tag names that include English terms more bewildering than plain gibberish (to some newly-interested) tag names?
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 5:01
  • 1
    The solution is good for tags. But there are a number of often-used terms that will probably never be tags (or tag synonyms), such as chayav ("obligated") and, indeed, any term written in Hebrew characters. ¶ As to the renaming of tags, yeah, I've been meaning to get some of them, personally. I guess I'll go tackle a few now. Thanks for the reminder. :-)
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 5:09
  • @Isaac - which is more clear: the tag tanach-scripture-bible plus three synonyms (tanach, scripture, bible), or the tag tanach plus two synonyms (scripture, bible)? The ones that most perplex me are those with multiple English words, like gentiles-non-jews and army-military-war.
    – Dori
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 5:36
  • I submit that the former is more clear, since many users, upon seeing tanach, would have no idea what that is. I agree regarding English-English synonyms that this sort of tag naming is unnecessary and cluttering.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Oct 5, 2011 at 5:54
  • Dori, one reason for English-English synonym tags can be that the best English word for some concept is ambiguous. For example, in a math-education SE (not that such exists yet), does "group" mean a bunch of kids, an algebraic structure, or 'grouping' in arithmetic? If the algebraic structure is worth a tag, then there's no better word for it than group, but a synonym will be necessary: group--algebraic-structure, perhaps. (Ping @IsaacMoses, too.)
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Oct 23, 2011 at 23:18
  • @msh210 - I agree this problem isn't unique to judaism.se. And given that, it's not surprising that other SE sites have already dealt with it. For your examples, I'd recommend group-students and group-math. However, I don't see how it applies to the tags I mentioned above (gentiles-non-jews and army-military-war) and others like handicap-disabled-impair and see-sight-vision-blind. These are simply synonyms, not words with multiple meanings which need to be in a hierarchy to differentiate them.
    – Dori
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 0:55
  • I agree with you re the specific examples you list.
    – msh210 Mod
    Commented Oct 24, 2011 at 6:40

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