Wikipedia:disambiguation

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Disambiguation in Wikipedia and Wikimedia is the process of resolving ambiguity—the conflict that occurs when a term is closely associated with two or more different topics. In many cases, this word or phrase is the "natural" title of more than one article. In other words, disambiguations are paths leading to different topics that share the same term or a similar term.

Wikipedia thrives on the fact that making links is simple and automatic: as you're typing in an edit window, put brackets around Mercury (like this: [[Mercury]]) and you'll have a link. But were you intending to link to Mercury the element, the planet, the automobile brand, the record label, the NASA manned-spaceflight project, the plant, or the Roman god?

(Note: to see how the above links were created, see the article on piped links).

Two different methods of disambiguating are discussed here:

  • disambiguation links — an article discussing the most common meaning of a term can have a link at the top pointing the user to another page pertaining to a different meaning (and often utilizing a similar title).
  • disambiguation pages — non-article pages that contain no content and only refer users to other Wikipedia pages.

Deciding to disambiguate

Disambiguation serves a single purpose: to let the reader choose among different pages that closely relate to various meanings of a particular term (some of which might logically utilize said term in a titular fashion). The considerations of what Wikipedia is not are not magically invalidated for disambiguation pages. Disambiguation pages are not intended for games of "free association." Please use them carefully and only when needed.

Confusion

Ask yourself: When a reader enters this term and pushes "Go", what article would they realistically be expecting to view as a result? When there is no risk of confusion, do not disambiguate nor add a link to a disambiguation page.

Dictionary definitions

Dictionary definitions don't belong here. However, there are templates for linking to Wiktionary. (See Wikipedia:How to link to Wikimedia projects#Wiktionary.)

Duplicate topics

Disambiguation should not be confused with the merging of duplicate articles (articles with different titles, but regarding the very same topic, for example "Gas Turbine" and "Gas turbine", or "loo" and "restroom"). These are handled with Wikipedia:Redirects.

Lists

Lists of articles of which the disambiguated term forms only a part of the article title don't belong here. Disambiguation pages are not search indices. Do not add links that merely contain part of the page title (where there is no significant risk of confusion).

However, when there is a separate list article, it makes sense to have a link to it in a "See also" section. For example, List of people whose first name is Michael should have a link from Michael.

Lists of ships

Main article: Wikipedia:WikiProject Ships#Index Pages

Lists consisting entirely of ships replace disambiguation pages. Where a vessel is listed among other entries by a hull number or other abbreviation, the entry should conform to the style for ships.

Sister projects

Disambiguation descriptions should not be created for subjects whose only articles are on pages of sister projects, even if the disambiguation page already exists (e.g., the poll on 9/11 victims). Subjects that have articles on both Wikipedia and sister projects are, of course, fine.

Summary or multi-stub pages

Several small topics of just a paragraph or so each can co-exist on a single page, separated by headings. Although this is similar to a disambiguation page, the disambiguation notice should not be put here, as the page doesn't link to other articles closely associated with a specific term.

As each section grows, there may come a time when a subject should have a page of its own. (See Wikipedia:Article size and Wikipedia:Summary style.)

Although many pages rely on this principle, it has become more common for each subject to have a separate page for its own stub.

Always use {{split}} or {{splitsection}}, and reach consensus before attempting the split. WP:Bold doesn't apply, as it is very difficult to revert a split, often requiring extensive assistance by administrators.

Disambiguation links

When a user searches for a particular term, something else might be expected than what actually appears. Therefore, helpful links to any alternative articles with similar names are needed. One of the templates shown below may be used. Their parameters are described in Template_talk:Otheruses4.

Top links

If there is a pair of articles, include a link to the other page. For example,

This article is about the trans-Neptunian object. For the Tongva god, see Quaoar (deity).
This article is about the Tongva god. For the trans-Neptunian object, see 50000 Quaoar.

When there are several articles, include a link to a disambiguation page. In many cases, the template {{Otheruses}} is appropriate. However, a variety of special cases are also handled. For example,

Template:Otheruses2

Template:Redirect

Don't pipe the link. Show the entire linked article title.

Bottom links

Bottom links are deprecated. Such links are harder to find and easily missed. For alternatives that are related to the article, and not likely to be ambiguous, the "See also" Section is more appropriate.

Template examples

A number of templates have been created to ensure a common appearance of disambiguation links:

This article is about . For , see Wikipedia:disambiguation (disambiguation).

Template:Otheruses2

This article is about This Topic. For Another Topic, see DifferentArticleName.

Template:Otheruses-number

Template:Otherplaces

Template:Otherplaces2

Template:Redirect

A longer, but incomplete list of disambiguation templates is found at Wikipedia:Template messages/General#Disambiguation, with further style information at Wikipedia:Hatnotes#Templates. Many more templates are listed in Category:Disambiguation and redirection templates.

Links to disambiguation pages include the text "(disambiguation)" in the title (such as, America (disambiguation)).

Disambiguation pages

Main article: Wikipedia:Manual of Style (disambiguation pages)

These pages are composed of a list of links. Start the list with a short introductory sentence fragment, usually ending with a colon. Use a bold page title in the list heading.

  • Start each entry in the list with a link to the target page.
  • Don't link any other words in the entry.
  • Only include related subject articles when the term in question is actually described on that page. (For example, Canton legitimately has a link to Flag terminology.)

Include the template {{disambig}} at the bottom. Following the template, include any of the standard categories.

For example, see Lift.

Preparation

Before constructing a new disambiguation page, determine a Specific topic name for existing pages, and a generic name for the disambiguation page. Move any conflicting page to its more specific name.

Use the What links here list of the moved page to update all of the pages that link to the page.

Construction

Assuming a Generic topic page, use the What links here list of the moved page to access the redirect page created by the move, and replace that redirect page with the new disambiguation page.

Use the new disambiguation page to find and replace any old disambiguation links in existing pages with a link to the new disambiguation page.

Note that the standard link templates will actually point to a Term XYZ (disambiguation) version of the new name. Use the red-link on an existing page to create a redirect page,

#REDIRECT [[Term XYZ]]{{R to disambiguation page}}

Page naming conventions

A disambiguation page may be named after the general term ("Term XYZ"), or may have a title like "Term XYZ (disambiguation)". Usually, there should be just one page for all cases (upper- or lower-case) and variant punctuation.

For example, "Term xyz", "Term Xyz", "Term X-Y-Z", and "Term X.Y.Z." should all redirect with the template {{R to disambiguation page}} to one page.

Generic topic

In most cases, the generic term or phrase should be the title of the actual disambiguation page. This permits an editor to visually determine whether a disambiguating page is generic in Category:Disambiguation.

Pages that deliberately link to generic topic pages should use an unambiguous "(disambiguation)" page instead, to assist in distinguishing accidental links. In turn, the "(disambiguation)" page will redirect to the generic topic page. This "(disambiguation)" redirect page should always be created for the Wikipedia:Links to (disambiguation) pages listing.

For example, the specific topic Tables (board game) links to Table (disambiguation), a redirect to Table with the template {{R to disambiguation page}}. Table is a generic topic disambiguation page.

Primary topic

When the primary meaning for a term or phrase is well known (indicated by a majority of links in existing articles, and by consensus of the editors of those articles), then use that topic for the title of the main article, with a disambiguation link at the top. Where there is no such consensus, there is no primary topic page.

Ensure that the "(disambiguation)" page links back to an unambiguous page name. The unambiguous page name should redirect to the primary topic page. This assists future editors (and automated processes).

For example, the primary topic Rome links to Rome (disambiguation), where there is a link back via Rome, Italy (rather than directly to Rome).

Specific topic

For disambiguating specific topic pages, several options are available:

  1. When there is another word (such as Cheque instead of Check) or more complete name that is equally clear (such as Titan rocket), that should be used.
  2. A disambiguating word or phrase can be added in parentheses. The word or phrase in parentheses should be:
  3. Rarely, an adjective describing the topic can be used, but it's usually better to rephrase the title to avoid parentheses.

If there is a choice between disambiguating with a generic class or with a context, choose whichever is simpler. Use the same disambiguating phrase for other topics within the same context.

For example, "(mythology)" rather than "(mythological figure)".

If there is a choice between using a short phrase and word with context, there is no hard rule about which is preferred. Both may be created, with one redirecting to the other.

For example, Mathematical analysis and Analysis (mathematics).

When the context is a book or other creative work, such as with articles about fictional characters, avoid lots of little stubs about fictional characters: check your fiction.

To conform to the naming conventions, the phrase in parentheses should be treated just as any other word in a title: normally lowercase, unless it is a proper noun that always appears capitalized even in running text (such as a book title).

For more on which word or phrase to insert in the parentheses, see Wikipedia:Naming conventions and Wikipedia talk:Naming conventions.

Links

Double disambiguation

A double disambiguation is a link to a disambiguation page from another disambiguation page. This kind of disambiguation is typically more specific than one with a simplified name. These kind of disambiguations are relatively rare on Wikipedia.

For example, Defense is a disambiguation page that leads to Defense industry, a secondary disambiguation page.

Interlanguage links

Pure disambiguation pages should contain interlanguage links only where a similar problem of disambiguation exists in the target language; that is, they should not point to a single meaning from the list of meanings, but to another disambiguation page.

Links to disambiguated topics

A code of honor for creating disambiguation pages is to fix all resulting mis-directed links.

Before creating a disambiguation page, click on What links here to find all of the pages that link to the page that is about to change. Make sure that those pages are fixed and that they won't be adversely affected when performing the {{split}} or {{splitsection}}.

When repairing a link, use empty pipe syntax so that the link does not contain the new qualifier.

For example, when renaming Topic Name to Topic Name (qualifier)), [[Topic Name (qualifier)|]] will render as Topic Name just like the original.

Of course, the whole point of making a disambiguation page is that accidental links made to it will make sense. These Wikipedia:Disambiguation pages with links are periodically checked and repaired.

There is a tool to facilitate this in the Python Wikipedia Robot. The bot offers to update links to choices listed on the disambiguation page. Don't forget to post a notice on the Wikipedia talk:Bots page.

Links to disambiguation pages

There is rarely a need for links directly to disambiguation pages—except from any primary topic. In most cases, links should point to the article that deals with the specific meaning intended.

To link to a disambiguation page (instead of a specific meaning), link to the redirect to the disambiguation page that includes the text "(disambiguation)" in the title (such as, America (disambiguation)). This helps distinguish accidental links to the disambiguation page from intentional ones.

The Wikipedia software has a feature that lists "orphan" pages; that is, no other page links to them. But for disambiguating pages, that's perfectly correct: we usually want pages to link to the more specific pages.

In order to make the orphans list more useful by not cluttering it with intentional orphans, disambiguation pages are linked from:

When you create a disambiguation page, add a link to it in one of those pages as appropriate.

Category:Disambiguation provides a complete list of disambiguation pages.

See also

System pages