I'm using text as follows to categorize some information. It goes from the general to the specific much as is done in libraries with books.

  • languages/english/spelling
  • science/biology/genetics

What I'd like to find is a word to describe the line above and also each individual word. There's path like in the computing world but that doesn't quite convey the idea.

  • 2
    Question seems unanswerable in current state & needs much more background. Eg, what does "qualify" mean? Is "languages/english/spelling" the "text as a whole" you refer to, or is there some other text? Note, edit the question rather than trying to fix it via comments Feb 29, 2012 at 8:13
  • 1
  • @jwpat7 Thank you for your comment. The question has been edited.
    – James P.
    Mar 1, 2012 at 4:46
  • I undownvoted after your edit, but believe question needs more explanation and another example, so haven't upvoted. Mar 1, 2012 at 5:14
  • @jwpat7 I've added another example. To take the first one, languages/english/spelling is more specific than languages/english.
    – James P.
    Mar 1, 2012 at 10:08

5 Answers 5


taxonomy or nomenclature could both be used to describe that, although taxonomy is generally used in nature.


This type of structure is usually referred to as a tree. Following this analogy, the individual words are nodes, where "spelling" is an end node or leaf, "languages" may be the root node or just root, and "languages/english/spelling" is a branch.

The wikipedia link says "The lines connecting elements are called branches", but I do not fully agree with that. It is common language to refer to all nodes below one node as a branch.

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    Agree, but the full text designation from root to leaf could also reasonably be called the hierarchy. Feb 29, 2012 at 14:26

This is almost, but not quite, an example of hyponymy, used ‘when the meaning of one form is included in the meaning of another’ (George Yule, ‘The Study of Language’). In your example, languages is a ‘superordinate’ and English is a hyponym of languages. The structure breaks down with spelling, because that’s an aspect of English rather than a kind of English. Hyponyms of English might be Standard English and Caribbean English.

  • Interesting. Hyponym sounds like a subset. I like the distinction you've highlighted about aspects.
    – James P.
    Mar 3, 2012 at 6:29

I'd like to propose breadcrumb trail, which according to the Wiktionary is:

A trail of hyperlinks that lead consecutively to the current page, displayed in the page as a guide and a means of navigating easily to any of the pages in the trail

The Wikipedia continues:

Breadcrumbs or breadcrumb trail is a navigation aid used in user interfaces. It allows users to keep track of their locations within programs or documents.

Typical breadcrumbs look like this:
Home page > Section page > Subsection page


I like hierarchy, which was suggested earlier. Or how about tiers, strata, categories, or classifications?

In the Dewey Decimal System, the terms used for the layers of classification (faceted classification) are classes, divisions, and sections.

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