I was recently tagging a question, and see there is now a tag with two synonyms: and . That seems like an awkward wording (at the very least it should be ), but it seems to me like it would be better to pick one of those two words and map the other to it.

English Language & Usage has a tag with the following synonyms: , , , . The tag excerpt says, "Questions related to definitions and nuances of meaning in a word or phrase." I think that setup makes a lot of sense, and I'd propose doing the same on SL&U (having a tag with similar concepts as synonyms).


2 Answers 2


SE sites generally evolve rather than being planned in advance and this is most evident in the tagging.

People also get used to how the tagging system works and this makes it harder and harder to change as a site matures.

So while we can learn from the structure of ELU's tag system, we can also learn from mistakes made there that have gelled or crystallised and now persist despite not being the best way to do things.

For instance I strongly feel most tags including "word" are bad since they don't allow for idioms, set phrases, and other things we might think of as words but which are actually two or more words separated by spaces (echar de menos, nada que ver, etc). It's better to use "term" or just to leave out this part. Instead of "word usage" have either "term usage" or just "usage".

Another thing to keep in mind is that tag synonyms are not about English synonyms or Spanish synonyms, they are about making useful clusters of concepts. Whether "meanings" or "definitions" are exactly synonyms by the dictionary is not what's important. It's whether they would be used for ("characterise") the same kind of question. This sometimes means it can be tricky choosing the best name for the tag. But ugly tags can be renamed and the tag wiki excerpts are there to tell the users how to use the tags, especially when the tag name simply cannot explain it fully. And editors with enough rep should be retagging questions that new contributors had trouble tagging.

One more thing, most Stack Exchange sites have decided to go with plural tags rather than singular wherever this makes sense. (It doesn't always make sense). You might find my post on travel SE on this topic of interest: Tags should be plurals (with a few caveats).

Jeff Atwood also wrote a blog post back in August with some very good tips for good tagging: Improved Tagging

  • Very good points here. I'd also agree with avoiding "word" or "term" or "phrase" (opting for more general tags), and clustering similar concepts when possible.
    – jrdioko
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:30
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    Also agree on tagging evolving over time and getting crystallized as time goes by... that's why I think it's good to sort out a lot of these major tags early on, while it's still easy to change.
    – jrdioko
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:37

Hey :) well I disagree with the approach of English Language & Usage. Mainly because it involves relating too many tags that are alike in meaning but not exactly the same.

For instance is quite tied to the definition of a word. Now, as I understand it is tied to the definitions of a word. I don't see much sense in overspecifying things. In my opinion the site should be as simple as possible while staying meaningful and usable. This includes not having tags that have the same purpose, I agree with one or two synonyms that are written fundamentally different like and but not like in EL&U where there is one tag with four synonyms.

That is the main reason why I merged the tags meanings and definitions. I saw it like this: a definiiton is always a meaning but a meaning is not always a definition. There is an inherent relationship, but I disagree that it is a relationship between synonyms. I thought the best way to solve this would be to merge the tags, since they are related, and would make things simpler.

This is only my opinion and why I merged them. I honestly don't see much sense in the approach of EL&U. But if there is a valid reason I can understand, was there such a discussion in EL&U?

  • I think merging them makes sense, but I was arguing the final tag name should probably be meaning (or definition) and not both of them strung together.
    – jrdioko
    Dec 16, 2011 at 17:35
  • @jrdioko: except maybe plural although both of these words also work as mass nouns so singular is OK too. I think I prefer definitions myself so far. Dec 17, 2011 at 8:05
  • @hippietrail: True. I think I'd prefer meanings just because it's a little wider in scope than definitions which seems to imply denotations only and not connotations.
    – jrdioko
    Dec 17, 2011 at 17:18
  • Hmm then maybe it's time to bring in both a) what kinds of questions the tags have been used on so far and b) what kinds of questions we envisage it to be used on. So we're not making decisions in a vacuum. Dec 17, 2011 at 17:33

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