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Disambiguation in Wikipedia and Wikimedia is the process of resolving ambiguity—meaning the conflicts that occur when articles about two or more different topics have the same "natural" title.

Wikipedia thrives on the fact that making links is simple and automatic: as you're typing in an edit window, put brackets around Mercury (like this: [[Mercury]]) and you'll have a link. But were you intending to link to Mercury the element, the planet, the car, the record label, the NASA manned-spaceflight project or the Roman god?

Disambiguation should not be confused with the merging of duplicate articles (articles with different titles, but regarding the very same topic, for example "Gas Turbine" and "Gas turbine", or "lift" and "elevator").


When to disambiguate[edit | edit source]

Disambiguation pages serve a single purpose: To let the reader choose between different pages that might reside under the same title.

Do not disambiguate, or add a link to a disambiguation page, if there is no risk of confusion. Ask yourself: When a reader enters this term and pushes "Go", would they expect to view any of the articles listed on the disambiguation page? Disambiguation pages are not search indices -- do not add links that merely contain part of the page title where there is no significant risk of confusion.

Adding links to non-existent articles should be done with care. There is no need for you to search for all occurrences of the page title and link to articles that are unlikely ever to be written, or if they are, likely to be removed. For example, quite a few names will show up as song titles, but with few exceptions, we usually do not write articles about individual songs, so there is no point in linking to them. If you must add this type of information, be sure to link to at least one existing article (band, album, etc.).

The considerations of what Wikipedia is not are not magically invalidated for disambiguation pages. There is no point in adding one-line dictionary definitions to such a page. One exception is jargon. Disambiguation pages can list terms defined in more general articles, e.g. Canton could link to Flag terminology.

It is acceptable to provide short descriptions within the disambiguation page for subjects which at present do not have their own articles (see below), but this should never be done for a subject where an actual article about it would immediately end up on Wikipedia:Votes for deletion. Disambiguation descriptions should not be created for subjects whose only articles are only on pages of sister projects, even if the disambiguation page already exists (e.g., the poll on 9/11 victims). Subjects which have articles on both Wikipedia and sister projects are, of course, fine.

Pages of common two and three letter abbreviations group series of possible expansions for the letters, such as chemical symbols, similar to disambiguation pages. These should be expanded beforehand. Such pages facilitate navigation and replace disambiguation pages. See Wikipedia:Disambiguation and abbreviations for details.

In general, inline descriptions are problematic because links to disambiguation pages should be avoided, so they are likely to be neglected for lack of visibility. Common misspellings should only be listed if you would redirect to the correct title if there were no other disambiguations, and as noted above, only if the articles exist or should be written and there is a real risk of confusion, e.g., Kington could include a link to Kingston. Misspellings on disambiguation pages can be listed in a separate section "Common misspellings" or "see also". Links to misspellings should not be added when no other disambiguation takes place, unless they are notable enough to be added inline in the article.

Disambiguation pages are not intended for games of "free association". Please use them carefully and only when needed.

Specific instances[edit | edit source]

On a page called Title, generally do not disambiguate:

  • Title County
  • Title City
  • Title Hospital
  • Title University

"Title Island", "Title River" or "River Title" may be worth listing in cases where the "Island"/"River" part is often omitted.

In most cases, do not list names of which Title is a part, unless the persons are very frequently referred to simply by their first or last name (e.g. Shakespeare, Galileo).

You may want to disambiguate on the same page:

  • TITLE and Title
  • Title town and Title township

Types of disambiguation[edit | edit source]

Solving this ambiguity can be done in several ways:

  1. Sections on one page: Several small articles of just a paragraph or so each can co-exist on a single page, separated by headings. Although this is a disambiguation page, the disambiguation notice should not be put here as the page doesn't link to other articles with similar title. But as each section grows, there comes a point where each meaning must have a page of its own.
  2. "Equal" disambiguation: all articles are moved to distinct names, and the "Mercury" page becomes a disambiguation page — a simple list (or sentence) that points to those specific articles, perhaps explaining the differences among them.
  3. "Primary topic" disambiguation: if one meaning is clearly predominant, it remains at "Mercury", the general title. The top of the article provides a link to the other meanings, or if there are a large number, to a page named "Mercury (disambiguation)". For example: the page Rome has a link at the top to a page named "Rome (disambiguation)" which lists other cities named Rome. The page Cream has a link to the page Cream (band) at the top.

Creating a "Primary topic" disambiguation can prove controversial due to differing ideas on which is the primary topic. When the discussion on the matter descends into edit wars and wasted time and effort, some editors feel it is better to resort to an "equal" disambiguation page. This opinion is not shared by all.

Creating disambiguation pages (2, 3 above) involves four steps:

  1. appropriate (and distinct) titles are chosen for the specific topics;
  2. the disambiguation page is written
  3. any existing links to the general title are replaced by links to the appropriate specific topics
  4. a link to the new disambiguation page is added to the appropriate list (see "Links to disambiguation pages", below)

Fixing links to disambiguated topics[edit | edit source]

A warning, though: people have a tendency to create disambiguation pages without fixing all the links to them. The result is that Wikipedia is left in a worse state than it was before the page was split.

Before creating a disambiguation page, click on "What links here" to find all the pages that link to the page you are about to change. Make sure those pages are fixed or that they won't be adversely affected before you do the split.

A code of honor for creating disambiguation pages is to fix the mis-directed links that will be created when the disambiguation page is made.

Rather than doing this manually, there is a tool to facilitate this in the Python Wikipedia Robot, occasionally run by e.g. User:Robbot. The bot offers to update links to choices listed on the disambiguation page.

Topic articles[edit | edit source]

For creating the specific topic pages, a few options are available. If there's an alternate name or more complete name that is equally clear, that can be used.

For example, Java programming language, Titan rocket. Otherwise, a disambiguating word or phrase can be added in parentheses. The word or phrase in parentheses should be one of two things: a generic noun describing what the specific title is an instance of (for example, Mercury (element), Seal (mammal)); or the subject or context to which the term applies (for example, Union (set theory), Inflation (economics)).

Rarely, an adjective describing the title can be used, but in this case it's usually better to rephrase the title to avoid parentheses. If there's a choice between using a short phrase and word with context (for example, "Mathematical analysis" vs. "Analysis (mathematics)", there is no hard rule about which is preferred, and one can often create both, one redirecting to the other.

A special case of using a "context" to disambiguate is when the context is a book or other creative work, such as with articles about fictional characters. However, we don't really want lots of twisty little stubs about fictional characters: check your fiction. If there is a choice between disambiguating with a generic term or with a context, choose whichever is simpler. For example "mythology" rather than "mythological figure". Use the same disambiguating phrase for topics within the same context.

To conform to our normal naming conventions, the phrase in parentheses should be treated just as any other word in a title: normally lowercase, unless it is a proper noun that always appears capitalized even in running text (such as a book title).

For more on which word or phrase to insert in the parentheses, see Wikipedia:Naming conventions and Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions.

The disambiguation page[edit | edit source]

There is some flexibility in creating the disambiguation page itself, or even whether it is necessary to create one at all. This section describes and compares a couple popular approaches.

As mentioned earlier, if the title clearly has one central most important meaning, and one or two lesser-known meanings in narrow contexts, it is probably better to have the full article about the primary meaning under the simple title, after brief links to the special uses. For example, the poker article covers the card game; it's likely that most people visiting that article are interested in the game rather than in fireplace pokers. For this reason, we link to fireplace poker from the existing poker article instead of moving that article to "Poker (game)". In many cases, there doesn't even yet exist an article on the less popular subject.

If a disambiguation page is merited, it can be as simple as a bullet list of specific articles with links and perhaps a brief one-line description of each (saving details for the specific articles), or it might have some explanatory text of its own if differences need to be explained, or if there is interesting history of the term itself independent of the specific topics (in the latter cases, a definition list may be preferable to a bullet list). If each of the topics themselves only has a sentence or two, it may be simpler just to put all of them together in one article.

Which method is appropriate will depend on the nature of the subject. The articles below serve as examples of what can be done (and a few examples of what shouldn't be done, but hopefully not many). Note that a disambiguating page may look a lot like a dictionary entry. We try to maintain a policy that Wikipedia is not a dictionary, so resist the urge to make such pages even more dictionary-like than they already are (for example, there's no need to put etymologies or pronunciations, unless those serve to clarify the topics).

You may want to include a note such as the following boilerplate (which you can copy and paste) at the bottom the page, or insert the text in Template:disambiguation by typing {{disambiguation}}

Some people don't understand what such a notice accomplishes, however, and recommend against them. Others recommend a shorter version (one which does not indicate that links to disambiguation pages need "fixing"):

  • ''This is a [[wikipedia:disambiguation|disambiguation]] page; if one followed a link here, one might want to adjust that link.''

If you're not making a whole disambiguation page you can put a notice at the top of a page; some examples:

: ''This article is about cream, the food item. For the rock band, see [[Cream (band)]].''

Or (short version at the top of the page)

: ''For other uses: see [[California (disambiguation)]].''

The effect as above can be more easily achieved by typing {{alternateuses}} instead. This template will automatically create the needed link by appending the (disambiguation) part to the name of the current article.

One can also disambiguate at the bottom of the article like this:

'''Horse''' is also a [[slang]] term for the [[recreational drug]] [[heroin]].

Disambiguation will appear below a horizontal line, when using the format shown above.

Links to disambiguation pages[edit | edit source]

There is rarely any need for links directly to disambiguation pages--in most cases links should point to the article that deals with the specific meaning intended, and not to a disambiguation page. Before making a page into a disambiguation page one should first look at each page that links to it (using the "pages that link here" feature of the software) and correct the links as appropriate. Of course, the whole point of making a disambiguation page is so that accidental links made to it will make sense, so it's not a major problem if there are still links to it.

The Wikipedia software has a feature that lists "orphan" pages; that is, pages that no other page links to. But for disambiguating pages, that's perfectly correct: we usually want pages to link to the more specific pages.

So, in order to make the orphans list more useful by not cluttering it with intentional orphans, disambiguation pages are linked from either

Special:Whatlinkshere/Template:Disambig (previously "Special:Whatlinkshere/MediaWiki:Disambig") could list all disambiguation pages, but the Wiki software limits the number of results listed to 500 in order to reduce technical strain on the servers. The Category:Disambiguation provides a complete list, but it is also hard on the servers (given that we have over 7,000 of them).

If you create a disambiguation page, put a link to it in one of those pages as appropriate.

If you must link to a disambiguation page (instead of a specific meaning), link to a redirect to the disambiguation page that includes the text "(disambiguation)", e.g. America (disambiguation). This helps in distinguishing accidental links to the disambiguation page from intentional ones.

Interlanguage links[edit | edit source]

Pure disambiguation pages should only contain interlanguage links if a similar problem of disambiguation exists in the target language; that is, they should not point to a single meaning from the list of meanings but to another disambiguation page.

CSS[edit | edit source]

Depending on your CSS settings for class div.boilerplate#disambig the disambiguation message looks like this:

If you do not have it displayed, you can still see that a page is marked as disambiguation page, from the category indication.

See also Wikipedia:Stub and disambiguation message example.

See also[edit | edit source]


This category has only the following subcategory.


Pages in category "Disambiguation"

The following 3 pages are in this category, out of 3 total.