Dictionary Style Guide for Buddhist Terms

This page describes the things to consider when writing a Buddhist-specific dictionary entry. When writing entries for generic Chinese words, see the chinesenote.com Style Guide. For a description of the structure of the metadata used in the NTI Reader see the page Metadata Used in the NTI Reader.

Dictionary Entry Components


Headwords are uniquely defined by the traditional writing of the word. There is no difference between Buddhist and regular headwords and they are not divided in the words.txt file.

Word id

Each lexical unit has a unique word id.

Simplified Chinese

The Simplified Chinese field is compulsory.

Traditional Chinese

The Traditional Chinese field is only added if the traditional Chinese text is different from the simplified Chinese.


The Pinyin field is mandatory.


The Grammar field indicates part of speech and is mandatory. Most Buddhist terms will be either nouns, proper nouns for people or places, or set phrases. Fixed expressions like 四聖諦 sì shèng dì 'four noble truths' should be assigned 'set phrase' for the value of this field.

English Equivalents

The English field is mandatory. Many Buddhist terms have Sanskrit or Pali origin. The International Alphabet for Sanksrit Transliteration (IAST) should be included for these in additional to an English equivalent. See Understanding Buddhist Sanskrit Terms for details on IAST. To help users search for the Sanskrit or Pali term, include a plain Latin equivalent as well. For example, for 煩惱 fánnǎo include the English equivalents kleśa / klesa / mental affliction. The exact Sanskrit and Pali orthography can be explained in detail in the Notes field. For terms that have a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean origin include the Pinyin, Japanese, or Korean writing of the term.

Follow the Wisdom Publications’ Style Guid for books on Indian and Tibetan Buddhism for other details on style. In particular, use lower case letters for enumerations. For example,


Concept is an optional field. Frequently used values for Buddhist terms are 法师 Monastic, 寺院 Temple, and 典籍 Canonical Text.

Domain Labels

For Buddhist terms the Domain Label should always be set to 佛教 Buddhism. The Subdomain Label is optional. Frequently used values are 大乘佛教 Mahāyāna Buddhism, 密教 Esoteric Buddhism, and 中国佛教 Chinese Buddhism. Domain labels can help users differentiate word senses.


For terms originating from a Sanskrit word the Sanskrit, Pali, and Japanese forms should be included. For example, 'From Sanskrit: sūtra, Pāli: sutta, Japanese: kyō; ...' Although most notes in the dictionary use simplified Chinese text where needed, notes on Buddhist terms should use traditional Chinese. The reason for this is to match the traditional text in the Taishō.

Notes should include references using the system of Abbreviations used in the NTI Reader dictionary.


See Dictionary Entry Templates for Buddhist Terms for guidelines on specific classes of terms.


  1. Atkins, B.T.S. & Rundell, M., 2008. The Oxford Guide to Practical Lexicography. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  2. Svensén, Bo 2009, A Handbook of Lexicography: The Theory and Practice of Dictionary-Making, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Wisdom Publications 2013, Wisdom Publications’ Style Guid for books on Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, Wisdom Publications, accessed 11 February 2017, http://www.wisdompubs.org/sites/default/files/WisdomStyleGuide201308.pdf.


Pinyin   English