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CAB Thesaurus

CAB Thesaurus

"CAB Thesaurus is the essential search tool for users of CAB Abstracts and Global Health databases and related products - providing almost 2.5 million descriptive terms, for the applied life sciences."

Build complex searches in the new, improved CAB Thesaurus.

What is the CAB Thesaurus?

CAB Thesaurus is the essential search tool for all users of CAB Abstracts and Global Health databases and related products. It provides a controlled vocabulary resource of almost 2.5 million descriptive terms, for the applied life sciences including:

  • agriculture
  • forestry
  • horticulture
  • soil science
  • entomology
  • mycology
  • parasitology
  • veterinary medicine
  • nutrition
  • rural studies


Why should you use CAB Thesaurus?

Build complex searches in the new, improved CAB Thesaurus – the authoritative list of CABI’s indexing terms. This tool can help you identify search terms and enable you to build a search profile using narrower terms. The search query can then be sent directly to CAB Direct, at the click of a button.

The CAB Thesaurus can be used to index digital or physical text, objects and collections. In an electronic environment, this means that different types of content within a subject area can be efficiently retrieved using a simple search strategy. Indexing with the CAB Thesaurus can enable highly effective searching and retrieval of your information.


What is CAB Thesaurus used for?

In its electronic form, the thesaurus has been used for a variety of applications, including:

  • selection of subject headings for library catalogues
  • indexing in-house bibliographic databases
  • indexing and searching of open-access databases of online resources
  • indexing and retrieval of databases of collections and of multimedia objects
  • selection of keywords for indexing primary journal articles
  • spelling and terminology reference aids


What's new in the 2016 edition of CAB Thesaurus?

New structural and organizational features have been added to increase the utility of CAB Thesaurus. Particular attention has been paid to translation of English content and technical issues related to open data, as well as the needs of CABI projects such as the award-winning Plantwise food security programme and the open access Invasive Species Compendium.

One of the biggest updates included revising terms for flowering plants (monocots) to conform to the APGIII (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group version 3) system of classification − a huge task since monocots include many very large families, such as grasses, lilies and orchids. In addition, over 2,000 taxonomic names of invasive plants have been added. Revisions were also completed of all crustaceans as well as microscopic, parasitic worms – cestodes, nematodes and trematodes – in companion animals.

Structural improvements to the 2016 edition include adding taxonomic ranks to over 213,000 scientific names of organisms, adding category codes for products, properties and publications, and improvements to expressing the data in SKOS (Simple Knowledge Organization System).

To extend the reach of CAB Thesaurus and to enhance the effectiveness of searching many translations of English non-taxonomic terms were added, particularly into German (4,645 terms added) and Finnish (1,489 terms added), focussing on geographic, chemical and disease terminology to ensure the hierarchies link up well.


CAB Thesaurus and open data

In September 2016 at the GODAN Summit in New York, CABI CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls detailed how CABI will collaborate with organizations like the USDA to create a Global Agricultural Concept Scheme, linking agricultural descriptive frameworks to build an open data resource, based on CAB Thesaurus.

CAB Thesaurus features:
  • Controlled vocabulary that has been in constant use since 1983
  • Regularly updated (current version released July 2016)
  • Broad coverage of pure and applied life sciences, technology and social sciences. For more information click here
  • Approximately 283,800 concepts including 157,400 distinct concepts (preferred terms) and 126,400 synonyms
  • Specific terminology for all subjects covered
  • Includes about 229,800 plant, animal and microorganism names
  • Broad, narrow and related terms to help users find relevant terminology
  • Cross-references from non-preferred synonyms to preferred terms
  • Multi-lingual, with Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish equivalents for most English terms, plus lesser content in Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish
  • American and British spelling variants
  • Relevant CAS registry numbers for chemicals
  • Commission notation for enzymes

The CAB Thesaurus is available in print (1999 edition only), in electronic form, and on the web (

The Electronic CAB Thesaurus is currently available in an XML format, SKOS/RDF and in a tagged field format suitable for reading into database management and similar systems.

The CAB Thesaurus is also available for licensing, please contact for more details.

CAB Thesaurus is an essential tool for academic, corporate and government librarians, who need to navigate, retrieve and index vast amounts of data. It can also be used for cataloguing and organizing in-house databases, as well as managing your intranet.

CAB Thesaurus features almost 2.5 million descriptive terms across:

  • agriculture
  • entomology
  • forestry
  • horticulture
  • mycology
  • nutrition
  • parasitology
  • rural studies
  • soil science
  • veterinary medicine
Help with search

CAB Thesaurus incudes in-product help text.


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