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Using Termbases in Legal Translation


As you work with legal translators, you will learn more about the processes and tools available to ensure that every legal document translated over the course of your working relationship uses your company’s terminology and preferences correctly and consistently. Using a termbase can help you to ensure that all translators and staff members have the same understanding of which terms to use.

If you want to upgrade your company’s legal translation glossary, consider these facts about termbases for legal translation projects.

What is a termbase in legal translation?

A termbase is like a glossary that lists the company-wide or project-specific terminology to be used in translation projects. It consists of translations and information about usage, definitions and domains, organized by concept or project. Often, you can organize translation glossaries in a simple Excel spreadsheet that can be sent back and forth.

Instead of a list, a termbase is a database that contains comprehensive data, including concept-oriented terminology and metadata. Termbases exist within terminology management tools, which are more robust and flexible than spreadsheets. There are advanced options available to search, filter, analyze and export data, as well as opportunities for all users to access data in real time. When terminology changes, you can immediately update it and have the new term used throughout current translation assignments. For companies that have many translation projects or large teams, a termbase can be an invaluable resource.

Reasons to manage terms in legal translation

There are many reasons to manage terms in legal translations that apply to every company. First, the translated deliverables that you receive will have consistent and clear language from the initial draft and will require fewer revisions to finalize. For companies that require large volumes of translated documents, a termbase can improve accuracy and strengthen your brand through consistency in messaging and usage. Often, this leads to faster translations and turnaround times.

Inconsistent language usage can cause unintended legal and security issues. Managing legal translation terminology prevents translators from unintentionally using the wrong term in a translation, thus reducing translation errors and preventing misunderstandings. If your company wants to use one term over another for SEO reasons, this can be managed in your termbase.

In terms of technology, using a termbase can improve the user experience for your team and translators. In the event that your company utilizes machine translation, managing terminology can improve outputs.

How to choose terms for your termbase

When it comes to choosing which terms to include in your termbase, you retain ultimate control of what to include. No term is too big or small for inclusion, including nouns, noun phrases, verbs and adjectives that are specific to the field or context.

Start by listing the specific terms used for products, features and services that show up in your documents. Think about the terms you often have to correct or that you notice people use incorrectly. Identify any terms that you don’t want to use under any circumstance and which synonyms you prefer. All of this can be included in your termbase. You should plan to update your termbase with any relevant terms that come up over the course of translation projects.

Tools for managing terms in legal translations

You can work with your language service provider (LSP) to see what terminology management systems they have available or can recommend. In many cases, they may suggest a proprietary system that they own or third-party software that they already use. Many third-party termbases are cloud-based, so multiple users can access and update the content at the same time.

A terminology management system’s features will vary depending on the exact software being used, but you can expect to see some of the same features in various platforms. Some terminology management systems have automation tools that can analyze your existing content as a way to get the termbase started. This can be a great option if you don’t know what terminology to include.

Integration is another important feature to look for, as it will ensure that the tool can more seamlessly integrate into the other software that your company uses. As more people gain access to your company’s termbase, having the ability to delineate roles and user access becomes even more important.


Every company needs a glossary when it comes to legal translation, even if you just need one project translated. It gives your translator a clear idea of your expectations and promotes consistency. If you require translation services regularly, it might be time to switch to a termbase that you can continue to benefit from for years to come.

If you are ready to start your company’s termbase, reach out to our expert team to partner with an experienced LSP capable of guiding you through the process. For information on everything you need to consider when translating your legal content, check out our ebook, The Definitive Guide to Legal Translations.