As discussed in this article (https://video.ibm.com/blog/streaming-video-tips/closed-captioning-vs-subtitles/), "subtitles" refers to a dialogue translation that is usually in a different language than the original film, and "captions" (closed or open) are meant for people who aren't able to listen to the audio in a film, and are usually in the same language as the original film.

Does anyone know a good word that encompasses both "subtitles" and "captions"? I would like something that communicates I'm not only referring to one of the two.

I thought this question (Is "Most of the world does not distinguish captions from subtitles" true?) might help me a bit but I'm still not sure.

  • 1
    Strictly speaking, closed-captioning is a form of subtitling so the word you're looking for is subtitles. Note that captions is a much wider term. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 4:41
  • The Wikipedia article does explain this so why ask it here? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_captioning#Terminology [closed means you have to turn it on.] If you are writing a paper, I suggest using subtitles/close- or open-captions.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 15:03

3 Answers 3


Captions and subtitles are generally provided by different technologies, so there is no common word in use for both. Subsequently, if you were to find such a word (as on this page [http://www.autocaption.com/captioning_types_of.html], which uses "captioning" for both) then you'll potentially encounter confusion, depending on the community you are communicating with, where such a word is not in common use.



Closed captioning (CC) and subtitling are both processes of displaying text on a television, video screen, or other visual display to provide additional or interpretive information.

Most of the world does not distinguish captions from subtitles. … The United Kingdom, Ireland, and most other countries do not distinguish between subtitles and closed captions and use "subtitles" as the general term. The equivalent of "captioning" is usually referred to as "subtitles for the hard of hearing".

Cf. alt-text for images.


As descriptive nouns, they are "audiovisuals" (audiovisual aids). They both can also be considered as "translations" (translational aids.), but it is more suggestive of "subtitles" as you mentioned in the question. The dialog, in either case, is being transcribed, so "transcriptions" (transcriptional aids) might work as well.




  • None of these terms relates to subtitles or closed-captioning. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 11:10
  • Sorry then, I completely missed your question. I thought you wanted alternative words to describe or use in place of "subtitles or closed-captioning"
    – user22542
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 11:22
  • It's not my question. And none of these terms can be used to describe or replace subtitles or closed-captioning. Transcription is a piece of paper (or a text document). Translation is content that may be used to produce subtitles. Audio-visual is an adjective used to describe types of media. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 11:29
  • @michael.hor257k - a transcription may also be sheet music (on paper or on screen), not just text. If you display a transcription on-screen line by line in sync with the audio, what would you call that?
    – nnnnnn
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 14:41

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