I am looking to build a piece of software that has in "Index" or "Table of contents" type look up and need a generic term for categorizing Items/Documents/Chunks of Data, and need my hierarchy to be two levels deep similar to parent/child or level1/level2 or broad/narrow that works for generic structures.

It's really a taxonomic structure with two defining classifications with an "is a" relationship. Is there a set of canonical generic terms for this?

EDIT: To clarify from a user interface perspective what words could be used to create the metaphor in their mind to instantly convey the two level hierarchy.

  • I'd describe that as looking like an outline. That doesn't describe the structure or attributes of the structure, but as a user metaphor it seems sensible to me - it describes a multi-level info hierarchy that everyone has used at some point in school.
    – Jason M
    Commented Aug 11, 2016 at 21:53
  • So your data is organized by category and sub-category??
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 11, 2016 at 6:03

1 Answer 1


Dictionary/Map/Associative ArrayWikipedia

In computer science, an associative array, map, symbol table, or dictionary is an abstract data type composed of a collection of (key, value) pairs, such that each possible key appears at most once in the collection.

Associative array, map, or dictionary are the most common ones I've heard of to refer to this structure. Your 'table of contents' would be the dictionary while your index would serve as the key (and the data would be found when looking at the key).

  • I am not looking at this from a computer science perspective, but a usability perspective from the user interface. To clarify what words could I present to the user to give them a clear metaphor.
    – leat
    Commented Jul 12, 2016 at 19:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.