About the Dictionary of Archives Terminology


Searching the Dictionary of Archives Terminology

Basic Search

Advanced Search


Anatomy of an Entry

The Entry Page

Supporting Citations

How to Cite Entries

Contributor Agreement Form




Welcome to the Dictionary of Archives Terminology (DAT), brought to you by the Dictionary Working Group of the Society of American Archivists (SAA). With hundreds of new words, thousands of citations from more than 1,300 sources, and a brand-new online platform, we are beyond excited to share with you the richness of the archival lexicon.

DAT picks up where A Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology by Richard Pearce-Moses (SAA, 2005) left off. An important work in documenting the archival lexicon, the Glossary was really more than a standard glossary. By introducing a syndetic structure and a style that was descriptive—based on actual usage—versus prescriptive, the Glossary started the Dictionary Working Group down a path that we not only wanted to continue but expand.

The syndetic structure provides a rich context for each entry to help users better understand its meaning and usage. As a web-only publication, we have been able to expand the connections made for each entry and have added hyperlinks to take you directly to related terms. We have added entries to one or more of 34 categories. Not only do these categories provide additional context for individual entries, they provide DAT users with the ability to view all terms within a particular topic.

Dictionaries are never truly finished, and DAT is no different. Many years in the making, and still very much a work-in-progress, DAT draws upon archives literature to craft succinct definitions for new words and phrases while at the same time refining and updating existing entries, the latter of which come specifically from the 2005 Glossary. Many entries also have roots in the first two glossaries compiled for SAA: “A Basic Glossary for Archivists, Manuscript Curators, and Records Managers” by Frank B. Evans, Donald F. Harrison, Edwin A. Thompson, and William Rofes (SAA, 1974); and Lewis J. Bellardo and Lynn Lady Bellardo, A Glossary for Archivists, Manuscript Curators, and Records Managers (SAA, 1992).

We hope you are subscribed to Word of the Week, a weekly e-blast that debuted in July 2014 and brings new or revised terminology straight to your email inbox. See something you like? Or don't like? Your feedback on a term is important to us. We have revised entries because your comments based on your experiences help us define the archival lexicon. You can also suggest new terms for potential inclusion in DAT or new uses of words already defined.

Learn more about the DAT and the Dictionary Working Group in these articles:

For the immediate future, updates to DAT will be made weekly as we define new terms and continue to input our work of the last six years. On behalf of the entire SAA Dictionary Working Group, thank you—our colleagues—for your comments, suggestions, and feedback. Please keep it coming! Together we are documenting and preserving the archival lexicon.

Chair, Dictionary Working Group
Society of American Archivists
April 2020; Revised October 2021



Searching the Dictionary of Archives Terminology (DAT)

There are many ways to access entries in DAT. If you want to start over, clicking the DAT logo will always take you back to the DAT homepage.

Basic Search

Let’s begin with the homepage and the most basic of the searches.

To start a basic search, click in the box and start typing. As you type, the box will expand with all of the terms in DAT that contain what you have typed. So, if you were looking for the definition of sample, you will also be presented with other terms that contain the word sample. It will look like this:

To select the term, you can click on it using your cursor or you can move through the list with your up and down arrow keys and select it using the Return or Enter key.

Please note that this search only pulls from the entry titles of all published terms (also known as the headword). Each entry page contains a search box for this same basic search.

Advanced Search

To open the Advanced Search, click on the arrow on the right of the search box. There are three options available. The first option is to search the headword only. This is the same search as the basic search.

The second option lets you pick one of the 34 categories and retrieve a list of all words that have been tagged to be included in that category.

Finally, you are able to search within the full text of the entries, which includes basic fuzzy searches to help adjust for typos, plural forms of words, etc. We are still experimenting with fuzzy searches and would love to get your feedback.


The last way to search is that good old-fashioned way . . . browsing. You will find the Browse by Alphabet link in the icons under the search box.


Anatomy of an Entry 

The Entry Page

The entry page is divided into three columns.

The main part of the entry appears in the center column. Here you will find the term (headword), the part(s) of speech, associated definition(s), citations, and notes. Some entries, like Bertillon card, have photos or illustrations that will also appear in this column.

In the left column, you first will find the categories that term is associated with. The categories are followed by terms that have been cross-referenced as well as any abbreviations.

The right column includes a link to the current Word of the Week as well as a button to subscribe to the weekly emails. It also links to the top five terms that are trending right now, a great way to see what your colleagues are learning more about. This list is updated in real time.

Supporting Citations

In the entry for a term, you will find citations that the Dictionary Working Group used to create the definitions. To see these citations, click the View Citations link at the end of a definition.

The citation list will expand. Clicking on the short title, e.g., Lewinson 1957, will take you to the bibliography to see the full citation. Following the short title is the page number or other location identifier for you to find the citation.

Click the Hide Citations link to collapse the citation list.

One major update that the Dictionary Working Group has undertaken is to evaluate all existing citations from the 2005 Glossary and match them to the individual definitions when there is more than one definition. Until this update is finished, you may find some citations still located at the end of the entry.

All citation sources are listed in the Bibliography and are formatted according to The Chicago Manual of Style.

How to Cite Entries from DAT

You may find that you want to cite an entry in a work of your own. The Dictionary Working Group’s recommended citation based on The Chicago Manual of Style (14.233: Reference works consulted online) is:

Dictionary of Archives Terminology, s.v. “[term],” accessed date, URL.

For example, the citation for “sample” would be:

Dictionary of Archives Terminology, s.v. “sample,” accessed September 29, 2021, dictionary.archivists.org/entry/sample.html.

DAT Volunteer Opportunities

  • Data Specialists:  We are looking for two data specialists to help transfer data from our primary workspace into the dictionary production software that creates the Dictionary of Archives Terminology (DAT). Familiarity with Asana and XML are a plus but not a requirement. Successful applicants should plan to spend about 10 hours a month and should commit to a minimum of one year working with the DWG because of the training involved. The data specialist application will be open until December 3, 2021. Applicants will be notified of DWG's decision before the end of the year. Apply at  https://forms.gle/Ja3kCRrfBhpvNbCt5.

  • Subject Specialists: We are also looking for individuals or groups who want to help develop terms or sets of terms on particular topics. These subject specialists (we are defining "subject specialist" VERY broadly) will help fill holes in DAT while using their expertise and passions to help define and describe our profession. Interested individuals or groups should complete the form at https://forms.gle/uUd2DxageGkiFwmA9. Groups, please have only one person apply on behalf of the group. The subject specialist application has no deadline. After submitting the application, a member of the working group will contact you. 

All volunteers working on the DAT will need to sign the Contributor Agreement Form (below).

Contributor Agreement

All contributors to the DAT must complete a Contributor Agreement form. Completed forms should be returned to dictionary@archivists.org.


The Dictionary of Archives Terminology was made possible through the support of the Society of American Archivists, the SAA Council, and SAA staff. In particular, we would like to thank Teresa Brinati, Matt Black, and Abigail Christian for their valuable facilitation, guidance, and encouragement.

The Dictionary Working Group recognized early on that we needed robust dictionary production software to accomplish our work, even though our total number of entries is small compared to most dictionaries. SAA partnered with Elements Forge (formerly IDM Group) to make this happen. We would like to specifically thank Jason Bush, Paul Hayslett, and Allan Orsnes for converting the digital version of the 2005 Glossary and creating the elements, categories, and interface to make our vision a reality.

A dictionary that expresses the language of a community cannot be crafted without input from that community. Thank you all who have submitted words for consideration, sent us citations to help define new and existing words, and provided feedback.

We would not be where we are today without the help of all who have served the archives profession as members of the Dictionary Working Group. Volunteers all, they have shared their passion and knowledge of archives and related professions to bring you the Dictionary of Archives Terminology.

Dictionary Working Group:

  • Sophia Basalone (2021)
  • Kathryn Bowers (2014–present)
  • Tamar Chute (2013–present)
  • Kristy Darby (2012–2018)
  • Helena Egbert (2021–present)
  • Rosemary Pleva Flynn (Chair, 2012–present)
  • Juli Folk (2018–2020)
  • Lauren Haberstock (2018–2020)
  • Pam Hackbart-Dean (2013–2014)
  • Cliff Hight (2015–present)
  • Geof Huth (2012–present)
  • Andrew Hyslop (2013–2017)
  • Mary Elizabeth Ruwell (2014–2020)
  • Dawn Schmitz (2012–present)
  • Margery Sly (2014–present)
  • Katy Sternberger (2016–present)
  • Joseph Turrini (2012–2014)
  • Diane Vogt-O’Connor (2012–2014)