Wikipedia:Disambiguation

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Disambiguation in Wikipedia is the process of resolving the conflicts that arise when a single term is ambiguous—when it refers to more than one topic covered by Wikipedia. (A "topic covered by Wikipedia" is either the main subject of an article, or a minor subject covered by an article in addition to the article's main subject.) For example, the word "Mercury" can refer to an element, a planet, a Roman god, and many other things. There are three important aspects to disambiguation:

This page discusses the standard ways of handling the above issues. For detailed advice about the format of disambiguation pages, see the style manual.

Deciding to disambiguate

Disambiguation is required whenever, for a given word or phrase on which a reader might search, there is more than one existing Wikipedia article to which that word or phrase might be expected to lead. In this situation there must be a way for the reader to navigate quickly from the page that first appears to any of the other possible desired articles.

There are three principal disambiguation scenarios, of which the following are examples:

For how to decide which of these scenarios is appropriate in a given case, see the following two sections.

Broad-concept articles

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If the primary meaning of a term proposed for disambiguation is a broad concept or type of thing that is capable of being described in an article, and a substantial portion of the links asserted to be ambiguous are instances or examples of that concept or type, then the page located at that title should be an article describing it, and not a disambiguation page. Where the primary topic of a term is a general topic that can be divided into subtopics, such as chronologically (e.g., History of France) or geographically (e.g., Rugby union in the British Isles), the unqualified title should contain an article about the general topic rather than a disambiguation page. A disambiguation page should not be created just because it is difficult to write an article on a topic that is broad, vague, abstract, or highly conceptual. Where there are additional meanings that are not instances or examples of a "Foo" primary concept or type, those should be included on a "Foo (disambiguation)" page.

For example:

In writing articles on these subjects, it is useful to directly address the scope of the term, and the history of how the concept has developed. Each of the examples of the concept or type of thing should be included at some point in the article, possibly in a list, so that no information is lost from what would have been presented in the disambiguation page format. Consider using summary style to incorporate information about the subtopics into the main article.

Pages needing to be expanded to describe the concept may be tagged with {{dabconcept}}.

Is there a primary topic?

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Although a word, name or phrase may refer to more than one topic, it is sometimes the case that one of these topics is the primary topic. This is the topic to which the term should lead, serving as the title of (or a redirect to) the relevant article. If there is no primary topic, the term should be the title of a disambiguation page (or should redirect to a disambiguation page on which more than one term is disambiguated). The primary topic might be a broad-concept article, as mentioned above.

There is no single criterion for defining a primary topic. However, there are two major aspects that are commonly discussed in connection with primary topics:

A topic is primary for a term, with respect to usage, if it is highly likely—much more likely than any other topic, and more likely than all the other topics combined—to be the topic sought when a reader searches for that term.
A topic is primary for a term, with respect to long-term significance, if it has substantially greater enduring notability and educational value than any other topic associated with that term.

In many cases, a topic that is primary with respect to usage is also primary with respect to long-term significance. In many other cases, only one sense of primacy is relevant. In a few cases, there is some conflict between a topic of primary usage and one of primary long-term significance. In such a case, consensus determines which article, if either, is the primary topic.

Determining a primary topic

There are no absolute rules for determining whether a primary topic exists and what it is; decisions are made by discussion among editors, often as a result of a requested move. Tools that may help to support the determination of a primary topic in a discussion (but are not considered absolute determining factors, due to unreliability, potential bias, and other reasons) include:

Redirecting to a primary topic

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The title of the primary topic article may be different from the ambiguous term. This may happen when the topic is primary for more than one term, when the article covers a wider topical scope, or when it is titled differently according to the naming conventions. When this is the case, the term should redirect to the article (or a section of it). The fact that an article has a different title is not a factor in determining whether a topic is primary. For example:

Sometimes, a disambiguated article title, such as Apostrophe (punctuation), may be moved to an unqualified title based on a consensus that this is the primary topic for the unqualified term. When such a page move is made, the redirect template {{R from unnecessary disambiguation}} can be used to categorize the redirect that results from the move under Category:Redirects from unnecessary disambiguation. Using the above example, Apostrophe (punctuation) would redirect as follows (where Apostrophe's topic is primary):

#REDIRECT [[Apostrophe]] {{R from unnecessary disambiguation}}

Disambiguation page or hatnotes?

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As discussed above, if an ambiguous term has no primary topic, then that term needs to lead to a disambiguation page. In other words, where no topic is primary, the disambiguation page is placed at the base name.

If there is a primary topic located at the base name, then the question arises whether to create a disambiguation page, or merely to link to all the other meanings from a hatnote on the primary topic article.

If there are only two topics to which a given title might refer, and one is the primary topic, then a disambiguation page is not needed—it is sufficient to use a hatnote on the primary topic article, pointing to the other article. (This means that readers looking for the second topic are spared the extra navigational step of going through the disambiguation page.) If there are two or three other topics, it is still possible to use a hatnote which lists the other topics explicitly, but if this would require too much text (roughly, if the hatnote would extend well over one line on a standard page), then it is better to create a disambiguation page and refer only to that.

If there are only two topics to which a given title might refer, but neither one is the primary topic, or if both topics are obscure, then it is appropriate to have a disambiguation page at the base name. For example, John Quested is a disambiguation page for the two people by that name who can be found in the encyclopedia:

John Quested may refer to:

If a disambiguation page is needed, but one of the other topics is of particular interest, then it may be appropriate to link to it explicitly as well as linking to the disambiguation page. For example, Inflation is about the primary topic—a rise in prices—and a hatnote links to Inflation (cosmology) as well as Inflation (disambiguation).

If a disambiguation page does not appear to be needed because there are only two topics for the ambiguous title and one of them is the primary topic, but there could reasonably be other topics ambiguous with the title on Wikipedia now or in the future, an {{about}} hatnote can be used to link to a disambiguation page (either in addition to or instead of a link directly to the other article). At the same time, the {{Only-two-dabs}} template should be added to the top of the disambiguation page, which will inform users that the page has only two ambiguous terms, and may be deleted if, after a period of time no additional ambiguous topics are found to expand the disambiguation page. The {{Only-two-dabs}} template will also list the article in Category:Disambiguation pages containing one non-primary topic, allowing other editors to locate these pages and help in expanding them. If the two-dab page has been expanded to include additional ambiguous topics, {{Only-two-dabs}} template should be removed and a direct link in the primary article to the other article may not be needed anymore as a link to the disambiguation page alone may be sufficient.

For example, Retrograde motion (disambiguation) contained links to only two articles, of which Retrograde motion was the primary topic. The disambiguation page is not needed, as the article links to the other meaning Apparent retrograde motion with a hatnote. However, if some more disambiguation links can be added, it would be useful to expand the hatnote with a link to the disambiguation page.

If the titles of two articles differ only in capitalization or the separation or non-separation of components, the articles should usually use a hatnote to link to each other.

Naming the specific topic articles

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For disambiguating specific topic pages by using an unambiguous article title, several options are available:

  1. Natural disambiguation. When there is another term (such as Apartment instead of Flat) or more complete name (such as English language instead of English) that is unambiguous, commonly used in English, and equally clear, that term may be used.
  2. Parenthetical disambiguation. A disambiguating word or phrase can be added in parentheses. The word or phrase in parentheses should be:
  3. Comma-separated disambiguation. Ambiguous geographic names are often disambiguated by adding the name of a higher-level administrative division, separated by a comma, as in Windsor, Berkshire. See Naming conventions (geographic names).

Natural disambiguation is generally preferable to parenthetical disambiguation; for instance mechanical fan and hand fan are used instead of fan (mechanical) and fan (implement). If natural disambiguation is not available, a parenthetical is used. If there are several possible choices for parenthetical disambiguation, use the same disambiguating phrase already commonly used for other topics within the same class and context, if any. Otherwise, choose whichever is simpler. For example, use "(mythology)" rather than "(mythological figure)".

Naming conventions applicable to certain subject areas are listed in the box to the right; these often contain detailed guidance about how to disambiguate. In particular, for articles about people, see the Disambiguating section in the people naming convention.

Format

To conform to the naming conventions, the phrase in parentheses should be treated just as any other word in a title: normally lowercase, unless it is a proper noun (like a book title) that would appear capitalized even in running text.

For common disambiguation words, see User:Jarry1250/Findings.

Hatnotes

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Users searching for what turns out to be an ambiguous term may not reach the article they expected. Therefore any article with an ambiguous title should contain helpful links to alternative Wikipedia articles or disambiguation pages, placed at the top of the article using one or more of the templates shown below.

Disambiguation hatnotes are not article content—they are associated with the title, rather than any article topic content.

Most hatnote templates generate links automatically, so double square brackets are not normally used within the templates. In some cases there are multiple templates available, one including and another omitting information about the topic of the article. The shorter hatnote may be chosen if omitting the information is not likely to confuse the reader.

On a primary topic page for a term that has one secondary topic only (no disambiguation page):

On a secondary topic page for a term that has one other topic only (no disambiguation page):

On a primary topic page that has an associated disambiguation page:

When the primary topic redirects to another page:

Other variations on these templates are available, including templates for specific subjects such as places, numbers, etc. Templates are listed and illustrated at Template talk:About and Wikipedia:Otheruses templates (example usage). A longer list of disambiguation templates is found at Wikipedia:Template messages/General#Disambiguation and redirection; further style information is given at Wikipedia:Hatnotes#Templates. Many more templates are listed in Category:Disambiguation and redirection templates.

Usage guidelines

Disambiguation pages

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Combining terms on disambiguation pages

A single disambiguation page may be used to disambiguate a number of similar terms. Sets of terms which are commonly so combined include:

Editorial judgement should be used in deciding whether to combine terms in the ways described above. If a combined disambiguation page would be inconveniently long, it may be better to split the disambiguation page into separate pages.

When a combined disambiguation page is used, redirects to it (or hatnotes, as appropriate) should be set up from all the terms involved.

Naming the disambiguation page

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The title of a disambiguation page is the ambiguous term itself, provided there is no primary topic for that term. If there is a primary topic, then the tag "(disambiguation)" is added to the name of the disambiguation page, as in Jupiter (disambiguation).

When a disambiguation page combines several similar terms, one of them must be selected as the title for the page (with the "(disambiguation)" tag added if a primary topic exists for that term); the choice should be made in line with the following principles:

In addition, when a disambiguation page exists at the ambiguous term, there should also be a redirect to it from the "(disambiguation)" title; in other words, if "Term ABC" is a disambiguation page, a redirect from "Term ABC (disambiguation)" should be created if it does not already exist. This type of redirect is used to indicate any intentional links to the disambiguation page, to distinguish them from accidental or erroneous incoming links that should be disambiguated to the appropriate article.

Page style

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Each disambiguation page comprises a list (or multiple lists, for multiple senses of the term in question) of similarly titled links.

A school is an institution for learning.
Blockbuster may refer to:

Include the template {{disambiguation}} (or another disambiguation template, such as {{Geodis}} or {{Hndis}}) at the bottom as an indicator of the page's status. For more information, see the relevant style guide section.

For prime examples of disambiguation pages, see "Lift" and "Aurora (disambiguation)".

What not to include

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Dictionary definitions

A disambiguation page is not a list of dictionary definitions. A short description of the common general meaning of a word can be appropriate for helping the reader determine context. Otherwise, there are templates for linking the reader to Wiktionary, the wiki dictionary; see Template:Wiktionary.

Partial title matches

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A disambiguation page is not a search index. Do not add a link that merely contains part of the page title, or a link that includes the page title in a longer proper name, where there is no significant risk of confusion or reference. For example, Baltimore Zoo is not included at Zoo (disambiguation) because people outside Baltimore would not readily identify it as the "Zoo", and including all zoos in the world in the disambiguation page is impractical. Add a link only if the article's subject (or the relevant subtopic thereof) could plausibly be referred to by essentially the same name as the disambiguated term in a sufficiently generic context—regardless of the article's title. For instance, the Mississippi River article could not feasibly be titled Mississippi, since that name is used by the U.S. state article, but it is included at Mississippi (disambiguation) because its subject is often called "the Mississippi". Place names are often divided between a specific and generic part: "North Carolina" (where "Carolina" is the specific, and "North" the generic part). Other common generics are compass points, upper/lower, old/new, big/small, etc. It is entirely proper to include such place names in disambiguation pages with the specific title (North Carolina is properly listed at Carolina (disambiguation)); but only exceptionally in the generic title (we don't expect to see North Carolina in North (disambiguation), just as we don't expect to see Mississippi River in River (disambiguation)).

To prevent disambiguation pages from getting too long, articles on people should be listed at the disambiguation page for their first or last name only if they are reasonably well-known by it. We expect to see Abraham Lincoln at Lincoln (disambiguation), but very few sources would refer to the waltz composer Harry J. Lincoln by an unqualified "Lincoln", so he is only listed at the Lincoln (surname) page. Consensus among editors determines if an article should be listed on the main disambiguation page.

Related subjects

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Do not include articles unless the term being disambiguated is actually described in the target article. (For example, Set (disambiguation) legitimately has an entry for Volleyball, as "set" appears in that article.)

Abbreviations, initials and acronyms

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Do not add articles to abbreviation or acronym disambiguation pages unless the target article defines the acronym or abbreviation. If an abbreviation is verifiable, but not mentioned on the target article, consider adding it to the target article and then adding the entry to the disambiguation page. In particular, don't include people and other things simply because of their initials, unless those initials have been widely used. John Fitzgerald Kennedy is widely known as JFK, and so it is included; however, Marilyn Monroe was never commonly known as "MM", nor was A. A. Milne known as "AA" (or "AAM").

Sister projects

Disambiguation descriptions should not be created for subjects whose only articles are on pages of sister projects, even if the disambiguation page already exists.

References

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Do not include references in disambiguation pages; disambiguation pages are not articles. Incorporate references into the articles linked from the disambiguation page, as needed.

External links

Don't include external links, either as entries or in descriptions. Disambiguation pages disambiguate Wikipedia articles, not the World Wide Web. To note URLs that might be helpful in the future, include them on the talk page. An exception is linking to Wiktionary for the dictionary definition of the disambiguated topic.

Preparation

Before constructing a new disambiguation page, determine a specific topic name for all existing pages, and the name for the disambiguation page. Move any page with a conflicting title (i.e., the same exact title) to its more specific name. Use the What links here list for the moved page to update pages that link to that page.

Construction

If an article has been moved to make way for the disambiguation page, use the What links here list of the moved page to access the redirect page created by the move, and replace that redirect page with the new disambiguation page.

Use the new disambiguation page to find and replace (see Table of keyboard shortcuts#Text editing) any existing disambiguation links in existing pages with a link to the new disambiguation page.

Note that the standard link templates will actually point to a Term XYZ (disambiguation) version of the new name. Use the red-link on an existing page to create a redirect page marked with the {{R to disambiguation page}} template.

For example, Term XYZ (disambiguation) could be redirected to the new disambiguation page Term XYZ as follows:

#REDIRECT [[Term XYZ]] {{R to disambiguation page}}

Links

Double disambiguation

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A double disambiguation is a link to a disambiguation page from another disambiguation page. This kind of disambiguation is typically more specific than one with a simplified name. This kind of disambiguation is relatively rare on Wikipedia.

For example, Montgomery is a disambiguation page that includes a link to Montgomery County, a secondary disambiguation page. Because the intended target page is also a disambiguation page, the link is to "Montgomery County (disambiguation)" rather than directly to "Montgomery County", so the page will not show up as an error needing to be fixed. See WP:INTDABLINK for further information on creating intentional links to disambiguation pages.

Incomplete disambiguation

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When a more specific title is still ambiguous, but not enough so to call for double disambiguation, it should redirect back to the main disambiguation page (or a section of it). This aids navigation, and helps editors to avoid creating new articles under the ambiguous title by accident.

Such redirects should be marked with {{R from incomplete disambiguation}} (which places them under Category:Redirects from incomplete disambiguations). For example, Aurora (album) could redirect as follows (where Aurora (disambiguation) is a disambiguation page):

#REDIRECT [[Aurora (disambiguation)#Music]]{{R from incomplete disambiguation}}

In some cases, information may be more appropriate as a list than a disambiguation. For example, Cleveland (NFL) should not be a disambiguation page, but should instead redirect to List of Cleveland sports teams#Football.

Interlanguage links

Pure disambiguation pages should contain interlanguage links only where a similar problem of disambiguation exists in the target language; that is, they should refer to another disambiguation page, not to one of the many meanings from the list.

Links to disambiguated topics

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A code of honor for creating disambiguation pages is to fix all resulting mis-directed links.

Before moving an article to a qualified name (in order to create a disambiguation page at the base name, to move an existing disambiguation page to that name, or to redirect that name to a disambiguation page), click on What links here to find all of the incoming links. Repair all of those incoming links to use the new article name.

When repairing a link, use pipe syntax so that the link does not show the new qualifier. For example, when renaming Topic Name to Topic Name (qualifier), [[Topic Name (qualifier)|Topic Name]] will render as Topic Name just like the original.

A shorter alternative is to use empty pipe syntax, also known as the pipe trick. This allows editors to leave out the piped alternative when editing. For example, typing "[[Topic Name (qualifier)|]]" will automatically produce "[[Topic Name (qualifier)|Topic Name]]". Read Help:Pipe trick for more information.

Ambiguous links are periodically checked and repaired, but even if some ambiguous links remain, one of the primary reasons for making a disambiguation page is so that following such links will still be useful to the reader.

There is a tool to facilitate ambiguous link repair in the Python Wikipedia Robot. The bot offers to update links to choices listed on the disambiguation page. Do not forget to seek approval on the Wikipedia:Bots/Requests for approval page if doing extensive or fast runs.

Links to disambiguation pages

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With few exceptions, creating links to disambiguation pages is erroneous. Links should instead point to a relevant article. The purpose of a disambiguation page is to give a user who has typed an ambiguous term into the search box a list of articles that are likely to be what he or she is looking for. Disambiguation pages are not articles and so should not be tagged as orphans per the Orphan criteria.

When to link to a disambiguation page

The exceptions, when an intentional link to a disambiguation page is appropriate, are:

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How to link to a disambiguation page

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To link to a disambiguation page (rather than to a page whose topic is a specific meaning), link to the title that includes the text "(disambiguation)", even if that is a redirect—for example, link to the redirect America (disambiguation) rather than the target page at "America". (If the redirect does not yet exist, create it and tag it with {{R to disambiguation page}}.) This helps distinguish accidental links to the disambiguation page from intentional ones. (For use in navboxes, see the {{D'}} template.) There is nothing wrong with linking to a redirect instead of linking directly to the disambiguation page; redirects are cheap and are basically transparent to the reader.

Redirects to disambiguation pages

Valid causes for redirecting to a disambiguation page include:

The rule about linking through a "(disambiguation)" redirect does not apply to redirects to disambiguation pages: do not create a double redirect, but make a redirect to the disambiguation page directly (thus Bill Cox, a redirect from an alternative name, redirects to the disambiguation page and does not go through the redirect William Cox (disambiguation)).

See Category:Redirects to disambiguation pages.

Deletion

Although disambiguation pages are not articles, a disambiguation page may be listed at Articles for deletion to discuss whether the disambiguation page should be deleted.

Categories

Disambiguation pages are not articles and should not be categorized as such. Article categories should lead readers to relevant articles; disambiguation pages should be placed in disambiguation categories only. Some categories are automatically provided by use of the {{disambiguation}} template and parameters (geo, surname, etc.). Hidden categories may appear due to maintenance or other tags and templates, but other explicit categories (such as Category:Mountains of Fooland) should not be used on disambiguation pages. When a disambiguation page includes a list of name-holders (in cases where the separate anthroponymy list article has not yet been created), explicit categories such as Category:Fooish surnames are acceptable on the disambiguation page until the anthroponymy article is split from the disambiguation page.

Set index articles

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A set index article is a list article about a set of items of a specific type that share the same (or similar) name. For example, Dodge Charger describes a set of cars, List of peaks named Signal Mountain describes a set of mountain peaks, and List of ships of the United States Navy named Enterprise describes a set of ships. Being of a specific type means that they share a common characteristic in addition to the similarity of name.

A set index article is not a disambiguation page: A disambiguation page is a list of things, possibly of different types, that share the same (or similar) name, formatted for best navigating the reader to the sought topic. A set index lists things of only one type and need not follow the formatting rules for disambiguation pages; however, many do by convention. A set index article is meant for information as well as navigation: just like a normal list article, it can have metadata and extra information about each entry. It may contain red links to help editors create articles on notable entries.

Fundamentally, a set index article is a type of list article. The criteria for creating, adding to, or deleting a set index article should be the same as for a stand-alone list. The style of a set index article should follow the style guidelines at Wikipedia:Stand-alone lists. A set index article can be tagged with {{Set index article}}.

Sometimes there will be a disambiguation page and a set index article for the same term. If the disambiguation page carries the name of the term (as with Signal Mountain), then the set index article should be named "List of XXXs named YYY" (as in List of peaks named Signal Mountain). Normally, if there is a choice between pointing the term at the set index page or the disambiguation page, the term should point to the disambiguation page (the broader category). In the rare case where the set index article is considered the primary topic, it may be named with just the term itself, the disambiguation page being called "YYY (disambiguation)".

For more information about set index articles for ships, see Wikipedia:WikiProject Ships/Guidelines#Index pages.

See also

External links