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CAB Thesaurus

CAB Thesaurus

"CAB Thesaurus is the essential search tool for users of CAB Abstracts and Global Health databases and related products - providing almost 2.7 million descriptive terms, for the applied life sciences."

Build complex searches in the new, improved CAB Thesaurus.

What is the CAB Thesaurus?

CAB Thesaurus is the essential search tool for all users of CAB Abstracts and Global Health databases and related products. It provides a controlled vocabulary resource of almost 2.7 million descriptive terms, for the applied life sciences including:

  • agriculture
  • forestry
  • horticulture
  • soil science
  • entomology
  • mycology
  • parasitology
  • veterinary medicine
  • nutrition
  • rural studies


Why should you use CAB Thesaurus?

Build complex searches in the new, improved CAB Thesaurus – the authoritative list of CABI’s indexing terms. This tool can help you identify search terms and enable you to build a search profile using narrower terms. The search query can then be sent directly to CAB Direct, at the click of a button.

The CAB Thesaurus can be used to index digital or physical text, objects and collections. In an electronic environment, this means that different types of content within a subject area can be efficiently retrieved using a simple search strategy. Indexing with the CAB Thesaurus can enable highly effective searching and retrieval of your information.


What is CAB Thesaurus used for?

In its electronic form, the thesaurus has been used for a variety of applications, including:

  • selection of subject headings for library catalogues
  • indexing in-house bibliographic databases
  • indexing and searching of open-access databases of online resources
  • indexing and retrieval of databases of collections and of multimedia objects
  • selection of keywords for indexing primary journal articles
  • spelling and terminology reference aids


What's new in the 2017 edition of CAB Thesaurus?

The updated version, with 2,651,201 terms, includes 166,395 distinct concepts (preferred terms) and 132,109 synonyms, as well as translations of these from English into ten European languages. These improvements make CAB Thesaurus the largest of its type in existence with at least twice the content of similar resources.

A number of important additions and revisions ensure the search tool remains relevant for various research applications. One of the biggest updates included adding another 800 taxonomic names of invasive plants in addition to the more than 2,000 names added in 2016. Similarly 600 medical terms were added to improve indexing of Global Health content with a focus on neoplasms, medicinal drugs, and metabolic markers related to disease. In total, over 14,700 new terms were added.

New structural and organisational features have been added to increase its utility.

Significant effort was directed to addressing the demands of CABI’s award-winning Plantwise food security programme and the open access Invasive Species Compendium, improving the searchability of these new knowledge bases, as well as CABI’s traditional database products.

Continuing from last year’s work, a second round of updates to the grass family completed the revision of the entire monocots using the APG III (Angiosperm Phylogeny Group version 3) classification system. Looking forwards, a start was made to revising the dicot plants using the more current APG IV system of classification; a large project estimated to take at least two years to complete.


CAB Thesaurus and open data

In September 2016 at the GODAN Summit in New York, CABI CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls detailed how CABI will collaborate with organizations like the USDA to create a Global Agricultural Concept Scheme, linking agricultural descriptive frameworks to build an open data resource, based on CAB Thesaurus.

CAB Thesaurus features:
  • Controlled vocabulary that has been in constant use since 1983
  • Regularly updated (current version released July 2016)
  • Broad coverage of pure and applied life sciences, technology and social sciences. For more information click here
  • Approximately 283,800 concepts including 157,400 distinct concepts (preferred terms) and 126,400 synonyms
  • Specific terminology for all subjects covered
  • Includes about 229,800 plant, animal and microorganism names
  • Broad, narrow and related terms to help users find relevant terminology
  • Cross-references from non-preferred synonyms to preferred terms
  • Multi-lingual, with Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish equivalents for most English terms, plus lesser content in Danish, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian and Swedish
  • American and British spelling variants
  • Relevant CAS registry numbers for chemicals
  • Commission notation for enzymes

The CAB Thesaurus is available in print (1999 edition only), in electronic form, and on the web (

The Electronic CAB Thesaurus is currently available in an XML format, SKOS/RDF and in a tagged field format suitable for reading into database management and similar systems.

The CAB Thesaurus is also available for licensing, please contact for more details.

CAB Thesaurus is an essential tool for academic, corporate and government librarians, who need to navigate, retrieve and index vast amounts of data. It can also be used for cataloguing and organizing in-house databases, as well as managing your intranet.

CAB Thesaurus features almost 2.5 million descriptive terms across:

  • agriculture
  • entomology
  • forestry
  • horticulture
  • mycology
  • nutrition
  • parasitology
  • rural studies
  • soil science
  • veterinary medicine
Help with search

CAB Thesaurus incudes in-product help text.


Training Materials

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