AGROVOC Editorial Guidelines (English)

AGROVOC Guidelines for English language editors 

These guidelines are not exhaustive. Quite a few issues are currently under discussion. If you would like to be involved in the discussion, please write to us at [email protected].  Your contribution is appreciated.


Subject coverage of AGROVOC  
Concept scheme 
How to add content to AGROVOC – an overview 
1: Is the term present in AGROVOC? 
2: Create a new concept: Choose the preferred term 
3: Create a new concept: Where to add the concept in the Hierarchy? 
Top and sub concepts 
4. Add non hierarchical concept-concept relations 
5. Add other descriptive information 
Annex A: TIPS on how to search AGROVOC 
Annex B: Editorial norms 
Lower case 
Common nouns and noun phrases 
Common names for plants, animals, fungi, bacteria & viruses 
Chemical compounds and elements written out 
Taxonomic ranks 
Upper case 
Proper names 
Geographic names 
Scientific species names for plants, animals, fungi, bacteria & viruses 
Scientific names for plants, animals, fungi, bacteria & viruses Above species 
Singular or plural 
Common nouns 
Multiword terms 
Common names for plants, animals, fungi, bacteria & viruses 
Scientific names for plants, animals, fungi, bacteria & viruses 
Chemical compounds or chemical elements written out 
Geographic names 
Other editorial norms 
Chemical symbols 
Names of entities of physical Geography 
Scientific names for animals, plants, funghi, bacteria & viruses 
Verbs and adjectives


Figure 1. Decision tree for AGROVOC 
Figure 2. Add a non preferred term to an existing concept 
Figure 3. Scientific and common names branches 
Figure 4. Common names branch for animals and plants 
Figure 5. skos:relation 
Figure 6. Add a definition to a concept in VocBench 


Should I add a term or a concept? Where should I place a concept within the hierarchy? Which relation should I use to link related concepts? And for related terms? How should I write a term - lower or upper case, singular or plural etc.?
In this manual AGROVOC users are guided through the decision-making process of enriching AGROVOC, with special focus on the English version. Dedicated guidelines for other languages may be developed in the future.
For specific instructions on how to subsequently insert/update terms/concepts in VocBench, the editing tool used by AGROVOC, please consult the VocBench v2.1 User manual The current stable release of VocBench is version 2.3. However, the manual for version 2.1 is still valid for the functionalities typically used by editors and referred to in these guidelines. See: http://aims.fao.org  


AGROVOC covers all areas of interest to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, such as food, nutrition, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, scientific and common names of animals and plants, environment, biological notions, techniques of plant cultivation, etc.  


AGROVOC is an RDF/SKOS-XL concept scheme. The basic notions for a concept scheme are: concepts and terms.

  • Concepts

Concepts are anything we want to represent or "talk about" in our domain. A concept could also be considered the set of all its labels (from now on called terms) used to express it in various languages. All concepts are identified by dereferenceable URIs (= URL), such as In SKOS, concepts are formalized as skos:Concept.

  • Terms

A term is any word or phrase used to label a concept in any given language. 
[maize*@en, corn (maize)@en, maïs*@fr, …]
maize* = the preferred term in English
corn (maize) = a non preferred term in English maïs*@fr = the preferred term in French 
For backward compatibility with traditional thesauri, one term is chosen as the preferred one in each language. Preferred terms are traditionally used for library indexing, while in electronic environment they are used to "name" the concept when the space is limited and only one term may be displayed. 

  • Relations

The structure of AGROVOC is given by the way concepts are organized by means of hierarchical and non-hierarchical relations. 
In SKOS, hierarchical relations between concepts are expressed by the predicates skos:broaderskos:narrower. They correspond to the classical thesaurus relations broader/narrower (BT/NT).
Non-hierarchical relations express a notion of "relatedness" between concepts. AGROVOC uses the SKOS relation skos:related (corresponding to the classical thesaurus RT) and a specific vocabulary of relations called Agron tology http://aims.fao.org
AGROVOC also allows for relations between terms, as in the case of the following example 
Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations agrontology:hasAcronym FAO*.
Formally, relations between terms are expressed by means of SKOS-XL, an extension of SKOS. 


  • Guidelines for th e Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled Vocabularies, ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 (R2010)
  • Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of MonolingualControlled Vocabularies, ANSI/ISO Z39.19-2005
  • Guidelines for Multilingual Thesauri, Working Group on Guidelines for Multilingual Thesauri, Classification and Indexing Section, IFLA, April 2005
  • AGROVOC Multilingual Agricultural Thesaurus, 4th ed., English version (Rome : FAO, 1999)
  • Guidelines for the establishment and development of multilingual thesauri, ANSI/ISO 5964-1985
  • Plant Names in Botanical Databases (Plant Taxonomic Database Standards No. 3, Version 1.00), published for the International Working Group on Taxonomic Databases for Plant Sciences (TDWG), December 1994
  • VocBench v2.1 User Manual (Rome, FAO, 2014) 



The preferred term in square brackets. 
In case it is useful to show other non-preferred terms, they are added. 
In case it is useful to show terms in other languages, the language is indicated by @ plus its ISO language code.

[Oryza*, …] 
[Oryza*, rice (plant), …] 
[Oryza*@en, rice (plant)@en, Oryza*@fr, イネ属*@ja,…]

Preferred term

The term in blue plus *


Non preferred terms

The term in blue

rice (plant)


Its abbreviated form in blue



The relation name in Italics



Agrontology A specific vocabulary of non-hierarchical relations developed for AGROVOC, grouped under skos:related.

Concept A concept may be anything: an animal, a plant, a geographical region, a chemical element, a technique, etc. Operationally, a concept is the set of all terms used in all languages to describe the same idea.

[Carthamus tinctorius*@en, safflower (plant)@en, [email protected], [email protected], …]

Sibling concept Concepts that have the same parent concept are called sibling concepts.  

[forest products*, …] [wood products*,…] [non-wood products*,…] In this example wood products and non-wood products are sibling concepts, i.e. they find themselves on the same level in the hierarchy and share the same parent concept forest products.

Hierarchical relations between concepts Concepts are organized hierarchically by means of the relations skos:broader (BT) and its inverse skos:narrower (NT)

[organisms*@en, organismos*@es, …]
[animals*@en, animales*@es, …]
[aquatic animals*@en, animales acuáticos*@es, …] 

Non-hierarchical relations between concepts. To link related concepts in AGROVOC the general skos:related is used. In case the nature of their relatedness needs to be specified the AGRONTOLOGY vocabulary is used. 

[Carthamus tinctorius*, safflower (plant),…] agrontology: produces [safflower seed*, …]

Non-preferred term Every concept has one preferred term in every language. All the alternative terms to name a concept in any given language are called non-preferred terms.

[Vicia faba*, faba vulgaris,…] In this example Vicia faba is the preferred term and faba vulgaris the non-preferred.

Parent concept Concepts are organized hierarchically by means of the relations skos:broader (BT) and its inverse skos:narrower (NT).

[animals*@en, animales*@es, …] [aquatic animals*@en, animales acuáticos*@es, …]

Preferred term For backward compatibility, for each concept in each language, one term is preferred. Preferred terms are traditionally used for library indexing, while in electronic environment they are used to "name" the concept when the space is limited and there is only room for one term. The decision which term should be preferred usually depends on its domain and its accepted conventions. 

[Vicia faba*, faba vulgaris,…] Vicia faba is the preferred term and faba vulgaris the non-preferred.

Relations between terms. Terms naming the same concept may be related to one another by means of linguistic and terminological relations. 

World Health Organization agrontology:hasAcronym WHO* 


A term is a word or phrase used to name a concept in any given language. 
Carthamus tinctorius and safflower (plant) are the English terms to represent the concept [Carthamus tinctorius*@en, safflower (plant)@en, [email protected], [email protected], …]

URI - Uniform Resource Identifier A URI is a string of characters used to identify a name or a resource on the Internet. The most common form of URI is the Web page address, which is a particular form or subset of URI called a Uniform Resource Locator (URL). In SKOS, concepts are formalized as skos:Concept and identified by dereferenceable URIs. is the URI of the concept [maize*@en, corn (maize)@en, maïs*@fr, ข้าวโพด*@th, ...]

SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System) is a W3C recommendation designed for representation of thesauri, classification schemes, taxonomies, subject-heading systems, or any other type of structured controlled vocabulary. SKOS is part of the Semantic Web family of standards built upon RDF and RDFS, and its main objective is to enable easy publication and use of such vocabularies as linked data.

SKOS-XL defines an extension for the Simple Knowledge Organization System, providing additional support for describing and linking lexical entities.

SKOS Concept scheme A SKOS concept scheme can be viewed as an aggregation of one or more SKOS concepts. Semantic relationships (links) between those concepts may also be viewed as part of a concept scheme.  


When you want to add content to AGROVOC, the first question that arises is: Should I add a concept or a term? The answer to this question mostly depends on whether the "concept" you want to add is already present in AGROVOC, maybe as a synonym, maybe in a different language. This decision tree graph may be helpful.

Figure 1. Decision tree for AGROVOC  


Think of the word or phrase you want to add. Is it present in AGROVOC?
Four options are possible:

  1. The English term is already in AGROVOC. In this case you do not have to do anything.
  2. The English term you have in mind is not in AGROVOC, but a similar (a synonym) English term is. Simply add "your" term as an alternative label (non-preferred term) of the same concept.

For example: You want to add climatic change. You first check if this term already exists in AGROVOC. You find that it does not, but you find climate change, which is a preferred term (for c_1666). Then you add climatic change to that concept. 

Figure 2. Add a non preferred term to an existing concept

  1. The English term is not there, but its equivalent in a different language is (rarely the case)

In this case retrieve the concept and add the term as the preferred term in English for this concept (being the first English term to be added to the concept).

  1. The concept is not in AGROVOC at all. In this case, you need to add a new concept to AGROVOC.

For example:
You want to add ancestral technology. You check if this term is already present in AGROVOC literally. If it is not, you look for its translation in other languages, like prácticas ancestrales and its synonyms, like ancient technology and traditional technology. You find the concept traditional technology already exists and consult a domain specialist - maybe yourself  - with the question: Is ancestral technology a synonym of traditional technology?You receive the following feedback: "Ancestral practices are the ones that were developed by the original indigenous population, and then were lost or modified with the arrival of Spanish/Portuguese/European farmers, who modified the original crops and agronomic practices. These practices are especially encountered in Latin America where an important indigenous component still prevails." Therefore you decide ancestral technology is not the same as traditional technology and create the following new concept:[ancestral technology*, …].

For instructions on how to create new terms and concepts in the VocBench, see the VocBench manual.  In Annex A, you will find some tips on how to search AGROVOC.


Once you have decided that you need to create a new concept, the following questions will come up: 1. How to choose a preferred term for it? 2. Where should you place the new concept within the overall hierarchy of AGROVOC? 
In this section, we provide some guidelines on how to choose a preferred term. In the next section we will talk about placing the concept within the overall hierarchy. Please consult the AGROVOC team before adding a new concept, if there is any doubt on where to place it. 

Common and scientific names of animals and plants

Scientific and common names of animals and plants (and fungi, bacteria..) may both be preferred terms of a concept. The choice mostly depends on in which branch of the hierarchy they are placed, the common names or the scientific names branch. For more details, see the sub-section "Scientific taxonomies and common sense hierarchies" of the section "Create new concept: Where to add the concept in the hierarchy".

Geographical names

AGROVOC already contains all names of countries recognized by the UN. Use the official names as defined in FAO Terminology and/or in FAO NOCS (Names of Countries) or UNTERM.
[Netherlands*, Holland, Kingdom of the Netherlands, …]
Note that short names or abbreviations/acronyms are entered as non preferred terms. 
[Slovak Republic*, Slovakia]
[European Union*, EU]
[Saint Lucia, St. Lucia] 

Other geographical entities – sub- and super-nationals
Always check out relevant authoritative sources to choose the official name of a geographical entity. 
[Burgundy*@en, Bourgogne*@fr,...]
[European Union*, EU, …] 

Entities of physical geography
Look in authoritative resources for the official form of names of mountains, rivers, lakes, valleys etc. The official form should be the preferred term, all other variants are considered non preferred terms.
NOTE that for disambiguation reasons the word "river" is attached to the names of rivers. 
[rivers*,...][Rhine river*, …] [Zambezi river*,...]


Preference for full form The full form should be selected as preferred term when the abbreviated form is not widely used and generally understood. Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled Vocabularies (ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 (R2010) p, 31
[System of Rice Intensification*, SIR, ...][Pale Soft Exudative Meat*, PSE meat, …]
Preference for abbreviated form The abbreviated form should be selected (as preferred term) when it has become so well established that the full form is rarely used, mostly the case for acronyms. Idem
FAO = preferred Food and Agriculture Organization = non preferred
AGRIS = preferred International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology = non-preferred
Chemical compounds and elements For chemical compounds and elements the full form is always the preferred term and the symbol the non preferred.
trinitrotoluene=preferred TNT = non preferred
oxygen=preferred O=non preferred   


AGROVOC is organized in a hierarchy. In this section we provide you with an overview of its structure. 
The "hierarchy" tab of the concept box in VocBench shows you a compact view of the hierarchy above and right below a concept. This is useful to quickly grasp long hierarchy lines or to inspect multiple hierarchical path leading to a concept. 


Hierarchical relations between concepts Concepts are organized hierarchically by means of the relations "broader" (BT) and its inverse "narrower" (NT). The following examples represent a fragment of a BT/NT hierarchy in respectively tree-like, standard thesaurus, SKOS format: 
In tree-like format
[cooking methods*, …]
[boiling*, …] 

In standard thesaurus-like format
[cooking methods, …] BT [boiling*, …] 
NOTE that concepts may have more than one parent. However, we do not encourage this practice.
[geographic regions*,…] [Amazonia*,…]
[South America*,…][Amazonia*,…]   


AGROVOC has 25 top concepts. All other concepts, the sub-concepts, are placed underneath these concepts. We recommend that you spend some time browsing the hierarchy to make yourself familiar with it. 
In the following of this section, we discuss some relevant fragments of the hierarchy, namely: agriculture, forestry and fisheries; scientific/commons names for plants/animals, fungi, bacteria & viruses; Diseases; Pests; Taxa; Geographic entities.

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries

"agriculture" and "fisheries" are both seen as economic activities.
[economic activities*,…]
[agriculture*, …]
[agricultural practices*,…][suburban agriculture*,…][urban agriculture*,…]
[acquaculture*,…][artisanal fisheries*,…][capture fisheries*,…][coastal fisheries*,…][demersal fisheries*,…]

Forestry is placed under as well top concept "activities" as "subjects".
[subjects*,…] [sciences*,…] [activities*,…]
[forestry*,…] [forestry operations*,…]
[cutting back*,…] [forest products derivation*,…] [silviculture*,…] [intensive silviculture*,…] [regeneration*,…]

Scientific taxonomies and commons sense hierarchies

In most cases, AGROVOC distinguishes between scientific taxonomies (where all scientific names can be found) and common sense hierarchies where common names can be found. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule, i.e., cases where common names and scientific names are "mixed" and can be found together. 
The figure below shows the branches existing in AGROVOC. The scientific names branches are colored green, the common names branches yellow.

Figure 3. Scientific and common names branches

You may find instances of pests also in this branch. Types of pests on the other hand are placed in the common names branch directly under 'Organisms.'
Preferred term & skos:related 
The general rule is that concepts in a scientific taxonomy get a scientific name as preferred, while concepts in a common sense hierarchy get a common name as preferred. The two concepts are then linked by means of a skos: related relation, see e.g. pelicans and Pelecaniformes.

The common names branch for plants and animals

The common names branches focuses on animals and plants from an agricultural point of view, like usability, productivity AGROVOC is an agricultural rather than a zoological thesaurus.. You find these branches directly under top concept "organisms". In the picture below, and example, relative to plants:

Figure 4. Common names branch for animals and plants
Preferred term & skos:relation
The common name is the preferred term, the scientific name may also be given, but it is preferable that you create another concept for the scientific name within the scientific names branch, relating the two concepts to each other by a skos: related relation.

Figure 5. skos:relation
NOTE that often we only have the scientific or only the common name in AGROVOC. For example, we have the term Ursus maritimus*, but it's common name "polar bear" is not present. Or the other way around, we have Coyote*, but we do not have its scientific name "Canis latrans".


Diseases are placed underneath top concept 'phenomena' 
[biological phenomena*,…]
[animal diseases*,…]
[bird diseases*,…]
[avian influenza*,…]


You may find types of pests, like 'stem eating insects', 'noxious plants', in the common names branch, directly under 'Organisms'. Instances of pests are placed in the scientific names branch under 'Eukaryota'.
[Eukaryota*,…] [Animalia*,…] [Aschelminthes*,…] [Nematoda*,…] [Heteroderidae*,...] [Heterodera*,…] [Hetorodera glycines*,…]

Taxonomic ranks

All taxonomic ranks are placed under the parent concept "taxa" and under the top concept "groups". 
[phylum*, division (taxa),…]

Geographical entities

Most geographic entities are to be found under top concept "entities". The actual countries, continents and regions are mostly placed under its sub-concept "World".
[world *,…]
[Asia and the Pacific*,…]
[ Asia*,…]
[ Central Asia*,…]
[ Turkmenistan*,..] 

Under sub-concept "Countries" you will find especially type of countries.
[entities*,…] [countries*,…]
[SADC countries*,…][agrarian countries*,…] [Small Island Developing States*,…] [developing countries*,…] 
Other geographical entities, such as valleys, beaches, mountains etc. are listed under top concept "features".
[features*,…] [physiographic features*,…]
[beaches*,…] [highlands*,…]

Rivers, lakes, gulfs etc. are to be found under top concept "resources" and then under two parents: "inland waters" and "surface waters.".
[natural resources*,…]
[nonrenewable resources*,…]
[inland waters*,…] [surface waters*,…]
[Cauca river*,…] [Nile river*,…]

NOTE that geographic concepts, like valleys or islands have as subconcepts "types" of valleys and islands, not specific valleys and islands. An exception is rivers, under this parent concept you will find a long list of river names, please compare:
[rivers*,...][Rhine river*, …][Zambezi river*,...] 
[valleys*,...][gorges*,...][upland valleys*,...]  


In AGROVOC you may use a number of relations – in VocBench called properties - to state that two concepts are related to one another. The most generic one is the relation skos:related which corresponds to the classical relation related term (RT), traditionally used in thesauri. 
In the module "Properties" in VocBench all the C-C relations currently available for AGROVOC are listed. 
Here below you will find a list of the C-C relations in use by AGROVOC, accompanied by some guidelines on their use and examples.
agrontology:taxonomicRelationship (18) hasTaxonomicLevel Used to specify the taxonomic category of the scientific name of a plant or animal.
[Araucaria araucana] has taxonomic level [species]
It is highly recommended to create this relationship for each scientific name of a plant, animal, fungo, bacteria or virus that is added to Agrovoc.
agrontology:causativeRelationship (31) Produces (inverted Causes) Used to lay a relationship between the scientific name of a plant and its common name as a product.
[Vicia faba*,...] produces [faba beans*, broad beans, tick beans,...]   


AGROVOC may be enriched in the Vocbench with various pieces of information, such as definitions, notes, attributes etc. In the following of this section we will first discuss information relative to concepts, then information relative to terms.



Definitions are narrative explanations of the meaning of a concept. Definitions also help AGROVOC users to understand the concept and decide on its use. 
Concepts may have one or more definitions and each definition may be expressed in one or more languages. Definitions consist of a narrative (the actual definition) and its source. You are strongly encouraged to add a source for each definition you provide. Definition source should be included as a URL, or as a Description.

Figure 6. Add a definition to a concept in VocBench

For example [sacred woods*,…]
Definition: A sacred wood is a wood which has a spiritual significance where the land is held by the local spirits and its spiritual character is venerated. Language: English
Source: Other URL: 
Editors are encouraged to provide a definition in English any time they add a new concept to AGROVOC, independently of their preferred language. This practice is meant to allow future expansion of AGROVOC, i.e. translation in other languages.


Three types of notes are currently in use:

Editorial note

The note skos: EditorialNote is used for editorial comments, like reasons for changing a concept.
This type of note is also used for adding the Author of a species, see Annex B. 
Term: Caudiverbera caudiverbera skos: editorialNote: Author: (Linnaeus 1758)

Scope note

The note skos:scopeNote is used:

  • To explain the meaning and application of a term.

[equipment*,…] Scope note: Use only when a more specific term is not available.
[application rates*,…] Scope note : Of drugs, fertilizers, pesticides or other agricultural chemicals

  • To create cross-references to terms representing other concepts than that chosen for the term under consideration

[dehydration*,…] Scope note: Excessive loss of water due to physiological phenomena; for the process of removing water from materials or products use <2402>.

  • To indicate limitations or extensions of the meaning of the term:

[Consistency*,…] Scope note: Restricted to the physical property
[Agricultural sector *,…] Scope note: Includes fishery and forestry sectors
[Growth rate*,…] Scope note: Restricted to the biological phenomenon; in economics use "Economic growth rate"

  • To state in which country that common name of animal or plant is used.
History note

VocBench shows a tab "History", which contains the editorial history of a concept and cannot be edited manually. The note skos:historyNote can be used to provide more details for the editorial history.
[Monera*,…]HistoryNote: Until June 2014 Monera was related to Prokaryotae through TaxonomicRelationship, since both concepts are referring to the same group of organisms, unicellular organisms, and both are taxa of outdated classification systems. The relation was deleted, because only used in this case.


Concepts may be further specified by means of attributes. Currently the following attributes are available: 
agrontology:isSpatiallyIncludedInState agrontology:isSpatiallyIncludedInCity agrontology:isPartOfSubvocabulary 
You may assign a concept to a subvocabulary, a thematic list of concepts, selecting the attribute isPartofSubvocabulary . Currently, the following subvocabularies are available:
Assign this attribute to chemical elements or names of chemical compounds.
[Hydrogen cyanamide*,...] isPartOfSubvocabulary: Chemicals 
Geographical country level
Use this for countries.
[Portugal*,...] isPartOfSubvocabulary: Geographical country level
Geographical above country level
The content of this subvocabulary is under revision. Do not use until explicitly stated.
Geographical below country level. 
The content of this subvocabulary is under revision. Do not use until explicitly stated.
Fishery related term
The content of this subvocabulary is under revision. Do not use until explicitly stated.
NOTE: Only Publishers and Administrators may add new subvocabularies. For suggestions for new subvocabularies please contact the AGROVOC team.


For concrete objects it is possible and actually encouraged to include images of the concept. 



Currently, in AGROVOC it is possible to keep track of the following attributes:

  • singular
  • plural
  • hasTermType

With attribute HasTermType, you may assign a subvocabulary to a term.

Subvocabularies of terms

It is possible to define thematic lists of terms, called subvocabularies. Subvocabularies of terms currently available are:
Acronym Common name for animals Common name for Bacteria Common name for Fungi Common name for Plants Common name for viruses Taxonomic terms for Animals Taxonomic terms for Bacteria Taxonomic terms for Fungi Taxonomic terms for Plants Taxonomic terms for viruses
New subvocabularies may only be created by Publishers and Administrators, so the creation of new vocabularies falls outside the scope of this document. In case you think extra ones should be added, please write us at [email protected].  


AGROVOC can be searched through the search & browse interface on the AIMS website or SKOSMOS or through VocBench If you prefer to use the VocBench, we recommend that you use the sandbox version at Note: only the production version contains all latest edits. 

When checking if a concept already exists in AGROVOC, try to consider the following:

SKOSMOS searches only in concepts having a label starting with the input value. So, if you search for "regis" you will find, for example "registration" and "registered designation of origin", but not "deed registration". If you want to search for all concepts having a label containing such input value, you need to put * before and after, so, for example, you can input *regis* and you will get many more results.

Search for Synonyms, or alternative ways to write it, such as spelling variants or transliterations

Examples Synonyms: wet season – rainy season – humid season Homographs: rice (seed) - rice (plant) Spelling variants: labour – labor

Use the functionality of "auto-suggestion" available both in the Search&Browse tool, and in VocBench

This is useful for example in case of multiword terms.

For example You look for "agricultural and rural development" and cannot find it. But both "agricultural development" and "rural development" are there.

Names of animals and plants For names of animals and plants, look for both their scientific/taxonomic names as common/local names.

For example Look as well for honey bees as Apis mellifera.
NOTE: that while most terms only appear in one branch of the hierarchy, animals and plants might be present in two branches of the hierarchy.

Most used form in other resources Check in dictionaries, glossaries and other agricultural thesauri, such as the CAB thesaurus and the National Agricultural Library (NAL) of the USA, to get an idea of the names they use to represent the concept you are proposing.  



Common Nouns and Noun Phrases

Common nouns and noun phrases are written in lower case. 
rice entomology pests animal developmental stages genetically modified organisms
NOTE: that this rule also applies to common names for plants, animals, fungi, bacteria & viruses and names of chemical compounds and elements written out. 
It does not apply to proper names, acronyms, geographic names and scientific names for plant, animals, fungi, bacteria and viruses. 

Common Names for Plants, Animals, Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses

Common names for plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and viruses are written in lower case.
dogs sunflowers mushrooms
NOTE: Scientific names of organisms are often "anglicized" by changing their endings to English format. Anglicized names are treated as common names and should not be capitalized. 
Scientific name: Chordata 
Common name: chordates  

Chemical compounds and elements written out

The full form (written out) of chemical compounds and elements are written in lower case.
oxygenmethyl methanesulphonate   

Taxonomic ranks

All names of taxonomic ranks start with a small letter.
genusphylumfamily (taxa)  



Follow the official spelling of the organization/association. In general the first letter of each word of a proper name is capitalized. Guidelines for the Construction, Format, and Management of Monolingual Controlled Vocabularies (ANSI/NISO Z39.19-2005 (R2010) p, 34 
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
World Bank Competitive African Cotton Initiative 

In case an organization capitalizes its names differently, use this spelling. 
NOTE: Proper names also occur within longer terms, for example in combination with "method", "theory", "disease". 
[Monte Carlo method*,…] [Kjeldahl method*,…][Bayesian theory*,…][Marek's disease virus*,…]   


Abbreviations include acronyms, initialisms, contractions and chemical compounds & elements.
Definition: An abbreviation formed from the initial letters of other words and pronounced as a word.
Follow the official spelling of the organization/association, see also Proper names. In general, though the first letter of each word of an acronym is capitalized. 
FAO for Food and Agriculture Organization
Definition: An abbreviation consisting of initial letters pronounced separately. The first letter of each word of the full form of the initialism should be capitalized.
SRI for System of Rice Intensification
When a term consists of a word and an abbreviation, each part follows the capitalization rule of the group it belongs to.
PSE meat PSE is an initialism for "Pale Soft Exudative" and "meat" is a common noun.
[X rays*, …][chloroplast DNA*,…]
Chemical symbols 
The chemical symbol is always capitalized (symbol)atmospheric CO2  

Geographic Names

Geographic names always begin with a capital letter. In case of names consisting of several words, all of them are capitalized. Look in authorized resources for the official form.
[Asia*,…] [Italy*, Italian Republic,…]
Generally all countries recognized by the UN are already in AGROVOC
In case of names of entities from physical geography, such as names of mountains, rivers and lakes, also the word "mountain", "river", and "lake" is usually capitalized.
[Lake Albert*,…][Amazon River*,…]
Geographic adjectives or nouns used in a name also start with a capital letter.
[bison*, American buffaloes, …][Atlantic salmon*, …][Greenland halibut*, blue halibut, mock halibut, …][Gulf of Alaska*,…] 

Scientific species names for Plants, Animals, Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses

A species name is always binomial consisting of a genus name and a specific name.
The genus name comes first and starts with a capital, the specific name comes second and starts with a lower-case letter., p. 14 
Apis melliferaHomo sapiens Clostridium botulinum Dictyostelium discoideum 

Scientific names for Plants, Animals, Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses above species

The names of the ranks above species, e.g. the instances of families, orders etc, start with a capital.
Scientific names are often "anglicized" by changing their endings to English format. Anglicized names are treated as Common names for plants and animals and should not be capitalized. 
Scientific name: Chordata 
Common name: chordates
Scientific: Eukaryota Common name: eukaryotes 



All countable nouns should be plural, non-countable nouns should be singular.
Countable nouns are names of objects or concepts that are subject to the question "How many?" but not "How much?". These should normally be expressed as plurals. 
pests chemical reactions vertebrates insectseconomic activities 
NOTE that names of parts of the body should be expressed as plurals when more than one occurs in a fully formed organism, but in the singular if only one is present. 
Non-countable nouns of materials or substances that are subject to the question "How much?" but not "How many?" should be expressed in the singular. 

NOTE: If the community of users regards a given substance or material as a class with more than one member, the class should be expressed in the plural. 
The names of abstract concepts, e.g. systems of belief, activities, emotions, properties and disciplines, should be expressd in the singular.
Abstract entities and phenomena: winterProperties: opacity; solubilityBeliefs: catholicismActivities: cutting; immigration;respirationProcesses: migration; ploughingEmotions: anger; envy; love; pittyDisciplines: physics; sociology 

Multiword Terms

All multiword names composed of nouns and non-function words (i.e. verbs, adjectives), the same editorial rules as for Common nouns apply.
animal developmental stagesgenetically modified organismslife cycle 

Common names for Plants, Animals, Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses

Common names for plants and animals

Species Common species names for plants, animals should be plural. 
sheep dogs 
Genus Common genus names for plants, animals should be singular or plural if referring to all species with that genus
acacia or acaciasthorntree or thorntrees
Common family names for plants and animals should be either singular or plural
legume family or legumes
NOTE that anglicized names of scientific names are considered common names.
Common names for fungi, bacteria and viruses
Common names for fungi, bacteria and viruses should be singular. 
oyster mushroom
NOTE that common names for fungi at genus and family level are uncommon. 

Scientific names for Plants, Animals, Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses

Scientific names for plants, animals and fungi
Species names Scientific species names for plants, animals and fungi (genus name + epithet) should be singular.
Acacia saligna Pleurotus ostreatus 
Genus names
Scientific genus names for plants, animals and fungi could be either singular or plural (if referring to all species within that genus) 
Pleurotus Acacia
Family, subfamily (and upper taxonomic levels)
Scientific family, subfamily (and upper taxonomic levels) names for plants, animals and fungi should be plural.
Pleurotaceae Fabaceae
Scientific names for bacteria and viruses
Species names Scientific species names for bacteria and viruses should be singular.
Genus names
Scientific genus names is usually used in the singular, but it may be used in the plural if it refers to all species within that genus. 

Chemical Compounds or Chemical Elements written out

Chemical compounds and chemical elements written out are non-countable nouns and should be expressed in the singular. 
carbon dioxide magnesium chloride

Geographic Names

Use the official names as defined in FAO Terminology and/or in FAO NOCS (Names of Countries) or UNTERM.
NOTE: Generally all countries recognized by the UN are already in AGROVOC  



A chemical symbol is followed by the specification "symbol" between round brackets.
O (symbol)P (symbol)C (symbol) 


A homograph is a term that has the same spelling as the term you propose, but represents another concept. Therefore we recommend to add a qualifier between round brackets to a homograph to clarify its meaning.
rice (seed)rice (plant) kingdom (taxa) 

Names of Entities of Physical Geography

In the case of names of entities from physical geography, such as names of mountains, rivers and lakes, consider adding the word "mountain", "river", "lake" etc. directly to the term (without parenthesis) to disambiguate it from regions, cities etc. with the same name.
[Rhone River*, …]{Rhone Alpes*, ..] 

Scientific names for Animals, Plants, Funghi, Bacteria & Viruses

Describing author of species

The species binomial may include the last name(s) of the describing author(s).In AGROVOC though the describing author is not part of the term's name, but may be mentioned in an editorial note. 
Term: Caudiverbera caudiverbera skos: editorialNote: Author: (Linnaeus 1758) (en)


The genus and specific name are conventionally written in italics to distinguish the name from surrounding text. Since AGROVOC is a thesaurus, there is no surrounding text and therefore this norm is not applied.

Abbreviation of the genus name

In some cases the genus name is abbreviated e.g. "H. sapiens" instead of "Homo sapiens". In AGROVOC we always use the full form.

Scientific name same in all languages

The scientific name for a plant, animal, fungi, bacteria or virus is the same in all languages.
Apis [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]

Transliteration of scientific names

Scientific names are usually written in the Latin alphabet (scientific names are Latinate words, meaning it is not a Latin word, but is derived from Latin). It may be transliterated in different alphabets.

Verbs and Adjectives

Terms should be single-word nouns or noun phrases. If not otherwise possible multiword names containing verbs and adjectives are allowed.
beneficial organismsgenetically modified organisms