In Norwegian, there is a single term ("notoritet") that basically means that some process is tracked in a formal manner. A typical use case is keeping a track record on a servitude on a piece of land. Every time that servitude changes hands it is recorded in a specific registry, so one can look up who the servitude belonged to at any point in time.

Looking it up in a Norwegian/English legal dictionary, the translation "notoriety" is what is suggested. However, looking up "notoriety" in an ordinary English dictionary (M-W - I don't have access to an English legal dictionary) yields:

the condition of being famous or well-known especially for something bad

which is not the meaning I am after at all.

After being asked about my specific use case in a comment, I added this:
My specific use case is that I am writing policy guidelines for a software development project, and want to include the sentence:

We require TERM for all changes done to the source code.

However, please do not get mislead that this specific use case. The target audience, unfortunately, do not know the meaning of software engineering terms such as "version control". I am looking for a general term for keeping a track record that will be understood by non-engineers.

Other variations of use may be:

We require this process to have TERM.
We require this process to be TERM.

What TERMs could be used here?

  • What processes would this need to apply to? Are you searching for a specific legal word? Technical? Should it also describe computer processes? Politics?
    – terdon
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 10:30
  • @terdon, the process is software development. I am trying to write a sentence that describes the requirement that makes us use standard source code tracking software in this project. I've added this context to the question Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 10:46
  • Do you merely want all changes to be documented, or do you want to have the ability to roll back to a prior version?
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:17
  • @Free Radical: I am trying to understand what you mean by "such a system". A system of what? Annotations? Documentation? Preservation of prior versions of the source code? Your fill-in-the-blanks example is not as clear as you may think it is. And what do you mean by "track"? Track in an automated manner? Or manually, by requiring programmers to document their work/changes?
    – TimR
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:33
  • @TimRomano, "such a system" is a system that keeps track of changes in an unspecified manner. As for all the great things cvs, svn or git can do for you, they are outside the scope of this question. I also doubt that there exists a single term in the English languge that would apply to svn, but not to git or cvs. Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:46

4 Answers 4


The answers already given are good in everyday English, but in the specific technical context you're describing, I would describe this as an audit trail (discussion of the term on Wikipedia). "We require an audit trail for all changes" conveys exactly the meaning you want.

[Maybe slightly off-topic here, but do you actually need to find a phrase for this at all - why not just say that "all code must be held under version control"? It's a very standard requirement, and surely the people reading your proposal will understand what it means and why.]

  • +1 "Audit trail" is helpful. I'll leave this open for some more time to see if more helpful answers turn up. As for the need for having this as a requirement, instead just saying version control is the requirement: This is for revamp of a project that has been running for a long time without it. Key people still do not understand why I think this should be introduced - so I need to do some education, and spelling out just what is required (in non-circular terms) is a start. Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 11:42
  • 1
    @FreeRadical Ah. If you're having to educate at that level, then maybe a common word like "traceability" is the right choice after all. "Audit trail" is a technical term - it makes sense once you know what it means, but it would take some imagination to understand it the first time you hear it.
    – Morton
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 11:53
  • Understanding depends on the audience. "Version control" is not a term that convey much meaning to managers. "Audit trail", on the other hand, with its book-keeping connotations, may just be the bee's knees. Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:20
  • Yes, as Morton has explained, audit trail is, precisely, what is always said in English for this, in softwareland. (As M points out, of course everyone just uses svn which, well, gives you an audit trail as a bonus.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:22

From your description I think the term traceability might fit in the context:

  • the ability to verify the history, location, or application of an item by means of documented recorded identification.

  • Other common definitions include the capability (and implementation) of keeping track of a given set or type of information to a given degree, or the ability to chronologically interrelate uniquely identifiable entities in a way that is verifiable.


also validation

  • the process to establish the soundness, accuracy, or legitimacy of something.
We require TERM for all changes done to the source code.
We require this process to have TERM.
We require this process to be TERM.

the only word with which you would replace TERM is "audit trail" as Morton explains.

This is commonplace in software development in English.

PS- I suppose literally "an audit trail". In the third example above: don't use that form. You'd use the second form.

  • Is this an answer or a comment?
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:20
  • you comment does not add anything relevant to the original answer. -1.
    – user66974
    Commented Jun 14, 2015 at 12:49

I think what you're looking for is transparency. While most of the definitions I find online focus on the literal sense in which a window is transparent, the word is commonly used for processes. For example, the Business English Dictionary defines it as:

a situation in which business and financial activities are done in an open way without secrets, so that people can trust that they are fair and honest

This meaning is also mentioned in definition 4b and c of the Online Free Dictionary for transparent:


a. Easily seen through or detected; obvious: transparent lies.

b. Free from guile; candid or open: transparent sincerity.

c. Open to public scrutiny; not hidden or proprietary: transparent financial records.

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