Search Thesaurus :

` Search Thesaurus

* Available only to search type "term begins with text"

About CAB Thesaurus

The CAB Thesaurus is the essential search tool for all users of the CAB ABSTRACTS™ and Global Health databases and related products. The CAB Thesaurus is not only an invaluable aid for database users but it has many potential uses by individuals and organizations indexing their own information resources for both internal use and on the Internet

Its strengths include:
  • Controlled vocabulary that has been in constant use since 1983
  • Regularly updated (current version released April 2021) - read the full July 2020 report here
  • Broad coverage of pure and applied life sciences, technology and social sciences. For more information click here
  • Total number of terms exceeding 3 million
  • Specific terminology for all subjects covered
  • Includes about 281,700 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, German, Portuguese and Spanish equivalents for most English terms, plus lesser content in Danish, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Russian and Swedish
  • American and British spelling variants
  • Commission notation for enzymes

About CABI

CABI is a not-for-profit science-based development and information organization. We improve people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. Our mission and direction is influenced by member countries who help guide the activities undertaken. These include scientific publishing, development projects and research, and microbial services.

Searching the CAB Thesaurus

Choosing the language

The CAB Thesaurus is available in eleven languages. Once a language is chosen from the drop-down list all searches and browsing will be in that language.

Browsing the thesaurus

From the Home page click "All terms A-Z" in the top menu. Then to browse alphabetically, click on "All" or a letter of the alphabet under "All Terms A-Z" in the central panel. Clicking on a term in the term list will display the term record.

To browse by term subject category or technical category, first click "Browse by subject / category" in the top menu, then click on "Subject Category" or "Technical Categories" to display appropriate lists of categories. Click on one of these categories to display a list of terms that belong to that category. Clicking on a term in the term list will display the term record.

On the term record display:

  • Clicking on a related term will display its term record.
  • Clicking on a subject category or technical category will list all terms within that category.

Searching terms

Search terms by entering the first few letters of the term or the entire term in the Search Thesaurus text box, then click the arrow or the "Search" button. When the "Search results" are displayed, clicking on a term will display the term record.

Search Options

The following search options are available:


Select the language from the drop down list upon which the search will be performed.

Search type

Determines whether to look for terms which begin with the text entered or terms which contain the text entered.

Example 1
Searching for 'plant' with "Search type" set to "terms begin with text" will find

  • plant (industrial) click to add this term
  • plant analysis click to add this term
  • plant anatomy click to add this term
  • plant breeding click to add this term

Example 2
Searching for 'plant' with "Search type" set to "terms contain text" will find

  • abortion (plants) click to add this term
  • acaricidal plants click to add this term
  • algicidal plants click to add this term
  • Alisma plantago-aquatica click to add this term

Results format

Determines what information is displayed in the results:

  • "simple term list" is an alphabetical list of the terms, one row per term
  • "terms + relationships" displays the term record for each term. This search is slower than the simple list.
  • "terms + hierarchy" displays the 2-way formatted hierarchy for each term. In this format, periods (".") denote narrower terms, and colons (":") denote broader terms. This search can be slow, depending on the number of levels each hierarchy has.

Terms per page

Determines how many terms per page to include in the results. A higher number will display more information, thus making it slower. However, a lower number might force you to click "Next >" in order to find the term.

Match terms

Determines whether to search alphabetically for terms which are equal to or greater (alphabetically) than the text entered or whether an exact match is required. These two options apply only where the "Search type" is "term begins with text".

Example 1
With the Search String equal to "qa" and "Search type" set to "term begins with text" and "Match terms" set to "Equal or Greater"

The result is:

  • Qalyub virus click to add this term
  • Qatar click to add this term
  • Q-I relationships click to add this term
  • Qinchuan click to add this term
  • Qing Hai click to add this term
  • Qinghai click to add this term
  • qinghaosu click to add this term
  • qinghaozhi click to add this term
  • quackery click to add this term
Note that words beginning "qi" and "qu" are greater alphabetically than "qa".

Example 2
With the Search String equal to "qa" and "Search type" set to "term begins with text" and "Match terms" set to "Exact prefix"

The result is:

  • Qalyub virus click to add this term
  • Qatar click to add this term
In this example there are only two words that begin with "qa".

Term type

Determines whether results should display all terms in the thesaurus that match the search criteria or only top terms. These two options apply only where the "Search type" is "term begins with text". A top term is a term that sits at the top of the thesaurus hierarchy. That means a top term does not have any Broader Terms. For example, the following is the Term Record for the top term "eukaryotes". Notice there are no Broader Terms, only Narrower Terms.

eukaryotes click to add this term


organismos eucariotes



Technical Categories

COM Common Name (Organisms)

P Plural Form

Narrower Term

animals click to add this term

fungi click to add this term

plants click to add this term

Related Term Broader

organisms click to add this term

Subject Category

ON Organism Names

When "top terms" is chosen, the search will perform significantly slower.

Creating a search string using the Search String box

Clicking on an click to add this term button will add the adjacent term to the Search String box. The search string can be extended by adding further terms. Once complete the search string may be sent to a search engine by clicking "Send to CAB Direct" or "Send to Google" or "Send to Yahoo". The search results are displayed in a separate browser tab. The "Send to CAB Direct" option will work only if your institution has a subscription to this service.

The Search String box is fully editable. A search string may be edited at any time.

If you want to clear the search string box, click on the "Clear Search" button below the box.

The search string can handle Boolean operators, such as OR, AND and NOT. The default operator is OR but that can be edited to something else. It is recommended that Boolean operators be typed in upper case.

Send feedback

When a term record is displayed, the "Send Feedback" option is shown on the top right of the screen. Clicking on this opens the default mail client on your computer, with the current (or first) term as the subject, and the predefined recipient

CAB Thesaurus 2017 sample data

These files contain sample data from the 2017 CAB Thesaurus, consisting of 13839 records starting with the letter A in English. The XML and SKOS/RDF outputs use UTF-8 encoding.

Plain text (8.5 MB)

Comma-delimited text (11.2 MB)

XML (10.1 MB)

SKOS/RDF (11.4 MB)

Verbose field labels are used in all these files making their contents self-explanatory. For further information please email

Coverage of the CAB Thesaurus


common terms - general processes, properties and characteristics
named regions and countries
research and methodology
mathematics, statistics and computer science
communication and information




soil science
meteorology and climatology



molecular biology
biological structure and form

behaviour and psychology


health and pathology

pathogenesis and epidemiology
health and health protection
pharmacology and toxicology

applied human and animal nutrition
applied genetics and breeding
agriculture, forestry and fishery
environment and natural resource management
technology and engineering

materials and equipment
materials handling and processing
energy and power

food science


social sciences

social welfare
policy, law and legislation

culture and humanities

leisure, recreation and tourism

Search string

Click the click to add this term to search string button beside a term to add it to the search string box below

Send to CABDirect