What Is Ontology?

By on

Ontology is often considered a subset of taxonomy. An ontology: Is a domain; contains more information about the behavior of entities and the relationships between them; includes formal names, definitions and attributes of entities; and, may be constructed using OWL, the Ontology Web Language from the W3C.

Other Definitions of Ontology Include:

  • “A data model that represents a set of concepts within a domain and the relationships among those concepts.” (Microsoft)
  • “More complex and quite formal collection of terms.” (W3C)
  • “A way to represent our knowledge on a specific topic that also allows us to share information using a common language.” (NIH)
  • “Describe and classify the entities of interest in a scientific domain in a computationally accessible fashion such that algorithms and tools can be developed around them.” (PubMed)

Businesses Apply Ontologies to:

  • “Harmonize data across repositories in a common language for an industry.” (e.g. FIBO)
  • To share a common understanding of the structure of information among people or software agents.
  • To enable reuse of domain.
  • Understand the how the usage of a term has changed over time and thus placing a term in context.
  • To allow machines to apply more efficient deep learning techniques and learn better independently.

Ontologies factor the thinking about how a domain influences: choices of maps and models, rules and representations, and required operations. Using taxonomies, alone, just does not model this type of thinking well.

Ontology Examples:

Map of the United States including Winslow Park in Connecticut

Directions to Winslow Park

The Winslow Park area

Image Credits: Adrian Bowles (Smart Data Webinar Slides)

Image used under license from


Leave a Reply

We use technologies such as cookies to understand how you use our site and to provide a better user experience. This includes personalizing content, using analytics and improving site operations. We may share your information about your use of our site with third parties in accordance with our Privacy Policy. You can change your cookie settings as described here at any time, but parts of our site may not function correctly without them. By continuing to use our site, you agree that we can save cookies on your device, unless you have disabled cookies.
I Accept