About the Thesaurus

Scope and purpose
Language versions
Characteristics, content and structure
Management and update

Scope and purpose

The Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus is a bilingual thesaurus consisting of terminology which represents all the fields treated in information resources of the Government of Canada. It contains 4,907 terms in English and 4,990 in French, including 2,260 preferred terms in English and 2,264 in French. All fields of knowledge are represented in the thesaurus, to varying degrees. Because of the great variety of subjects covered by the thesaurus, its terminology is rather general. By design, it does not include specialized terminology used in specific and limited disciplines.

The tool is primarily intended for content managers, librarians, indexers and metadata developers in federal departments and agencies who must select controlled subject terms to index Government of Canada Web resources. In the Treasury Board Standard on Metadata, the Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus is identified as the preferred source of controlled vocabulary for that purpose. Using the CST will help to reduce the duplication of effort in creating a variety of controlled vocabularies in the Government of Canada, as well as increase the interoperability of government web sites.

Language versions

The English and French versions of the Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus were developed and are maintained simultaneously. Their status is identical, that is to say that neither language is to be considered the dominant or source language. The relational structures of the English and French versions, however, may differ in some cases to better reflect the terminology and concepts peculiar to each language.

Characteristics, content and structure

The Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus was developed in accordance with the Guidelines for the establishment and development of monolingual thesauri (ISO 2788-1986) and the Guidelines for the establishment and development of multilingual thesauri (ISO 5964-1985).

The thesaurus includes preferred terms and non-preferred terms (synonyms). Preferred terms are linked together through hierarchical relationships (broader term and narrower term), associative relationships (related term) and inter-language equivalence relationships (English and French equivalents).

The terms are also classified according to broad subject categories. The thesaurus search interface allows users to browse the subject categories and see an alphabetical list of all the terms pertaining to each category.

Some preferred terms are also presented with scope notes.

Example of a record from the thesaurus:

Alternative medicine

Médecine douce

Subject Category:
HE Health and Safety

Used For:
Soft medicine

Broader Term:

Narrower Term:

Related Term:
Medicinal plants

In this thesaurus and by convention, English terms normally appear in the plural form, except for abstract concepts or entities that cannot be counted. In contrast, and again by linguistic convention, French terms generally appear in the singular form.

For more information on how to use the thesaurus, we invite you to consult the Search Help page and the section Indexing with the Thesaurus.

Management and update

The Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus is managed and updated by Library and Archives Canada. Under a memorandum of understanding with Library and Archives Canada, the CST Web site is hosted by Environment Canada. More about the history of the thesaurus...

The Government of Canada Core Subject Thesaurus is continuously updated. All your comments and suggestions are welcome.