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When writing a document that contain some field-specific concepts it might be convenient to add a glossary. A glossary is a list of terms in a particular domain of knowledge with definitions for those terms. This article explains how to create one.

Introduction

Let's start with a simple example.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
\usepackage{glossaries}

\makeglossaries

\newglossaryentry{latex}
{
    name=latex,
    description={Is a markup language specially suited 
    for scientific documents}
}

\newglossaryentry{maths}
{
    name=mathematics,
    description={Mathematics is what mathematicians do}
}

\title{How to create a glossary}
\author{ }
\date{ }

\begin{document}
\maketitle

The \Gls{latex} typesetting markup language is specially suitable 
for documents that include \gls{maths}. 

\clearpage

\printglossaries

\end{document}

 Open this example in Overleaf

The following image shows the Glossary produced by the example above:

Glossary1OLV2.png

To create a glossary the package glossaries has to be imported. This is accomplished by the line

\usepackage{glossaries}

in the preamble. The command \makeglossaries must be written before the first glossary entry.

Each glossary entry is created by the command \newglossaryentry which takes two parameters, then each entry can be referenced later in the document by the command \gls. See the subsection about terms for a more complete description.

The command \printglossaries is the one that will actually render the list of words and definitions typed in each entry, with the title "Glossary". In this case it's shown at the end of the document, but \printglossaries can be used in any other location.

Terms and Acronyms

Usually there are two types of entries in a glossary: terms and their definitions, or acronyms and their meaning. This two types can be printed separately in your LaTeX document.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
\usepackage[acronym]{glossaries}

\makeglossaries

\newglossaryentry{latex}
{
        name=latex,
        description={Is a mark up language specially suited for 
scientific documents}
}

\newglossaryentry{maths}
{
        name=mathematics,
        description={Mathematics is what mathematicians do}
}

\newglossaryentry{formula}
{
        name=formula,
        description={A mathematical expression}
}

\newacronym{gcd}{GCD}{Greatest Common Divisor}

\newacronym{lcm}{LCM}{Least Common Multiple}

\begin{document}

The \Gls{latex} typesetting markup language is specially suitable 
for documents that include \gls{maths}. \Glspl{formula} are 
rendered properly an easily once one gets used to the commands.

Given a set of numbers, there are elementary methods to compute 
its \acrlong{gcd}, which is abbreviated \acrshort{gcd}. This 
process is similar to that used for the \acrfull{lcm}.

\clearpage

\printglossary[type=\acronymtype]

\printglossary

\end{document}

 Open this example in Overleaf

The following image shows part of the output produced by the example above:

Glossary2OLV2.png

The following subsections explain how to create each of the list types.

Terms

As seen in the introduction, terms are defined by means of the command \newglossaryentry

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{glossaries}

\makeglossaries


\newglossaryentry{maths}
{
    name=mathematics,
    description={Mathematics is what mathematicians do}
}

\newglossaryentry{latex}
{
    name=latex,
    description={Is a markup language specially suited for 
scientific documents}
}


\newglossaryentry{formula}
{
    name=formula,
    description={A mathematical expression}
}

\begin{document}

The \Gls{latex} typesetting markup language is specially suitable 
for documents that include \gls{maths}. \Glspl{formula} are rendered 
properly an easily once one gets used to the commands.

\clearpage

\printglossary

\end{document}

 Open this example in Overleaf

The following image shows the Glossary created by the example above:

Glossary3OLV2.png

Let's see in more detail the syntax of each parameter passed to the command \newglossaryentry. The first term defined in the example is "mathematics".

  • maths. This first parameter is the label of this term and is used to reference it within the document with gls
  • name=mathematics. Includes The word to be defined, in this case "mathematics". It's recommended to write it in lowercase letters and singular form.
  • description={Mathematics is what mathematicians do}. Inside the braces is the definition of the current term.

After you have defined the terms, to use them while you are typing your LaTeX file use one of the commands describe below:

\gls{ }
To print the term, lowercase. For example, \gls{maths} prints mathematics when used.
\Gls{ }
The same as \gls but the first letter will be printed in uppercase. Example: \Gls{maths} prints Mathematics
\glspl{ }
The same as \gls but the term is put in its plural form. For instance, \glspl{formula} will write formulas in your final document.
\Glspl{ }
The same as \Gls but the term is put in its plural form. For example, \Glspl{formula} renders as Formulas.

Finally, to print the glossary use the command

\printglossary

Acronyms

An acronym is a word formed from the initial letters in a phrase. Below is an example of acronyms in LaTeX

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage[acronym]{glossaries}

\makeglossaries

\newacronym{gcd}{GCD}{Greatest Common Divisor}

\newacronym{lcm}{LCM}{Least Common Multiple}

\begin{document}
Given a set of numbers, there are elementary methods to compute 
its \acrlong{gcd}, which is abbreviated \acrshort{gcd}. This process 
is similar to that used for the \acrfull{lcm}.

\clearpage

\printglossary[type=\acronymtype]

\end{document}

 Open this example in Overleaf

The following image shows part of the output produced by the example above:

Glossary4OLV2.png

To use acronyms an additional parameter must be used when importing the glossaries package. The line to be added to the preamble is

\usepackage[acronym]{glossaries}

Once this line is added, the command \newacronym will declare a new acronym. For the sake of an example, below is a description of the command \newacronym{gcd}{GCD}{Greatest Common Divisor}

  • gcd is the label, used latter in the document to reference this acronym.
  • GCD the acronym itself. Usually acronyms are written in capital letters.
  • Greatest Common Divisor is the phrase this acronym is used for.

After the acronyms have been included in the preamble, they can be used by means on the next commands:

\acrlong{ }
Displays the phrase which the acronyms stands for. Put the label of the acronym inside the braces. In the example, \acrlong{gcd} prints Greatest Common Divisor.
\acrshort{ }
Prints the acronym whose label is passed as parameter. For instance, \acrshort{gcd} renders as GCD.
\acrfull{ }
Prints both, the acronym and its definition. In the example the output of \acrfull{lcm} is Least Common Multiple (LCM).

To print the list of acronyms use the command

\printglossary[type=\acronymtype]

The acronyms list needs a temporary file generated by \printglossary to work, thereby you must add said command right before the line \printglossary[type=\acronymtype] and compile your document, once you've compiled your document for the first time you can remove the line \printglossary.

Changing the title of the Glossary

If you want to change the default title of the glossary for something else, this is straightforward, two parameters must be added when printing the glossary. Below is an example.

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage{glossaries}

\makeglossaries


\newglossaryentry{maths}
{
    name=mathematics,
    description={Mathematics is what mathematicians do}
}

\newglossaryentry{latex}
{
    name=latex,
    description={Is a markup language specially suited for 
scientific documents}
}


\newglossaryentry{formula}
{
    name=formula,
    description={A mathematical expression}
}

\begin{document}

The \Gls{latex} typesetting markup language is specially suitable 
for documents that include \gls{maths}. \Glspl{formula} are rendered 
properly an easily once one gets used to the commands.

\clearpage

\printglossary[title=Special Terms, toctitle=List of terms]

\end{document}

 Open this example in Overleaf

The following image shows part of the output produced by the example above:

Glossary5OLV2.png

Notice that the command \printglossary has two comma-separated parameters:

  • title=Special Terms is the title to be displayed on top of the glossary.
  • toctitle=List of terms this is the entry to be displayed in the table of contents. See the next section.

Show the glossary in the table of contents

For the glossary to show up in the table of contents put

\usepackage[toc]{glossaries}

in the preamble of your document

\documentclass{article}
\usepackage[toc]{glossaries}

\makeglossaries

\newglossaryentry{maths}
{
    name=mathematics,
    description={Mathematics is what mathematicians do}
}

\newglossaryentry{latex}
{
    name=latex,
    description={Is a markup language specially suited for 
scientific documents}
}


\newglossaryentry{formula}
{
    name=formula,
    description={A mathematical expression}
}

\begin{document}

\tableofcontents

\section{First Section} 
The \Gls{latex} typesetting markup language is specially suitable 
for documents that include \gls{maths}. \Glspl{formula} are rendered 
properly an easily once one gets used to the commands.

\clearpage

\printglossary[title=Special Terms, toctitle=List of terms]

\end{document}

 Open this example in Overleaf

The following image shows the content of the 2 pages produced by the example above. Note how the command

\printglossary[title=Special Terms, toctitle=List of terms]

produces different titles for the table of contents ("List of terms") and the corresponding heading used in the text ("Special Terms"):

Glossary6OLV2.png

Compiling the glossary

To compile a document that contains a glossary in Overleaf you don't have to do anything special, but if you add new terms to the glossary once you compiled it, make sure to click on Clear cached files first under logs option).

If you are compiling the document, for instance one called glossaries.tex, using pdflatex on your local machine, you have to use these commands:

pdflatex glossaries.tex

makeglossaries glossaries

pdflatex glossaries.tex

Reference guide

Styles available for glossaries

The command \glossarystyle{style} must be inserted before \printglossaries. Below a list of available styles:

  • list. Writes the defined term in boldface font
  • altlist. Inserts newline after the term and indents the description.
  • listgroup. Group the terms based on the first letter.
  • listhypergroup. Adds hyperlinks at the top of the index.

Further reading

For more information see:

Overleaf guides

LaTeX Basics

Mathematics

Figures and tables

References and Citations

Languages

Document structure

Formatting

Fonts

Presentations

Commands

Field specific

Class files

Advanced TeX/LaTeX