I'm looking for a set of words that define a logical, hierarchical structure to define a simple 3 level taxonomy, but it needs to comply with the following requirements:

  1. The words must be related, like for example category->subcategory or species->subspecies->family are.
  2. The words should be very general, so I can apply them to any subject.
  3. The hierarchy must be well-defined and acknowledged.

I was thinking about something like theme -> topic -> subject, but one could argue that topic and subject are the same thing. Is there another combination I could use? This comes from someone who does programming for a living, where this kind of things are very usual and easy to achieve.

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    Are you thinking of a particular field of endeavour? At present the possibilities are multiplying as soon as they are searched for, could you clarify a little? Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 7:18
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    Are you looking for something like ontology?
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 7:18
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    Oh, I see now you want the names for three levels in the hierarchy. That will really depend on the subject area. The general names are probably too general: top level, mid-level, low-level or similar.
    – Jim
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 7:23
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    it's diverse, up to the user. it could literally be anything. imagine any possible taxonomy combination (animals, geography, computers, space, art), but abstract. top-level, mid-level and low-level are "correct", I was just hoping there are better examples. I searched synonyms for theme and topic, but I had no luck there...
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 7:31
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    genus / species are general terms but have default specific meanings (under family ... order ... class) in biological classification. Commented Dec 19, 2021 at 12:22

2 Answers 2


From a clarifying comment under the question:

It's diverse, up to the user. It could literally be anything. Imagine any possible taxonomy combination (animals, geography, computers, space, art), but abstract. Top-level, mid-level and low-level are "correct", I was just hoping there are better examples.

Based on this, I suggest general > intermediate > specific.

From Merriam-Webster:

  • General
    1 : involving, applicable to, or affecting the whole
  • Intermediate
    1 : being or occurring at the middle place, stage, or degree or between extremes
  • Specific
    1 a : constituting or falling into a specifiable category
    1 b : sharing or being those properties of something that allow it to be referred to a particular category

What you’re describing is a database: Database, Table (or Collection for non-tabular data), Record. Are you reinventing the database management system? Are you making a database of databases? Perhaps you could be making a database for each database instead of filling one database with a bunch of self-managed databases.

Now, if something distinguishes your information from the database you're putting it in, I'd recommend using that distinction as a prefix, at least internally (e.g. user_database or dynamic_database.) Hard to name abstractions are often the wrong abstractions, so if there's no distinction, that's a sign you don't need to create a separate thing.

Finally, you could use a metaphor from books: Library > Series > Volume

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