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Introduction to Translation

The widespread use of SNOMED CT worldwide requires it to be available in various languages. SNOMED CT has a system in place to handle different languages and dialects.

At present, translations of SNOMED CT are available in several languages.

This page presents the basic principles and steps involved with translating SNOMED CT



It is crucial that those involved in the translation and review processes are familiar with the terminological principles on which SNOMED CT is based. It is equally important that they comply with established naming conventions and that they are conscious of issues such as the choice of lexical variant, term requirements, translation techniques and strategies, and the importance of ensuring linguistic consistency.


Translation Project Owners (TPOs) should strive to ensure that translations comply with the principles on which SNOMED CT was originally based (comprehensibility, reproducibility, useability) and that the information contained in the translated concepts is semantically equivalent to that contained in the core source terminology (international release).


The basic objective of any SNOMED CT translation is to provide accurate and unambiguous descriptions of SNOMED CT concepts in the target language. Therefore, a principle of concept-based translation must be used. Defining a set of national linguistic guidelines, including syntactical, morphological, and orthographic rules, to support that approach, is also crucial.


General linguistic principles
  • The overall principle should be that since the target group of the national edition of SNOMED CT® are professionals, a high level of quality LSP (Language for Specific Purpose) terms should prevail. It is recommended that some preliminary, general principles regarding the choice of lexical variant are established before the translation work commences.

  • Recommendations or policies established by a national language council, authority or board should, in general, be followed



Planning for a translation should include a thorough analysis and completion
  • Define the scope of the translation
    Determine which SNOMED CT concepts
    are to be included in the translation taking into account the use cases where SNOMED CT in being implemented

  • Identify the target audience
    Determine the language preferences of the target audience, and any specific requirements for terms and synonyms they may have.

  • Develop translation guidelines
    Develop national translation guidelines that builds on the general guidelines for translating SNOMED CT, and include linguistic principles for the target language. These guidelines should be developed in collaboration with subject matter experts, language experts, and other stakeholders, and should provide guidance on issues such as terminology, syntax, grammar, and style. 

  • Develop a translation process
    Establish a clear and systematic process for translating SNOMED CT, including steps such as terminology research, translation, review, and quality assurance.

    • ​ If concepts from several hierarchies are to be translated, decide on the sequence of the translation

  • Establish a translation team
    Assemble a team of translators who are proficient in both the source and target languages, as well as subject matter experts who can provide guidance on medical concepts and terminology.

    • Involve terminologists with profound knowledge of SNOMED CT and its concept model

    • Educate the translation team in guidelines, translation principles and process and tools.

  • Acquire translation tools
    Utilize translation tools, such as translation memory software and terminology management systems, to improve efficiency and consistency in the translation process.

  • Establish quality assurance processes
    Implement quality assurance processes, such as proofreading and review by subject matter experts, to ensure the translated content is accurate, complete, and consistent.

  • Plan for maintenance
    Develop a plan for maintaining the translated content, including updating the translation as new versions of SNOMED CT are released and ensuring consistency across translations in different languages.

  • Obtain necessary acceptance/approvals
    Obtain any necessary approvals from relevant organizations and stakeholders, such as national health authorities or SNOMED International, before publishing the translated content.

  • Prepare publication process
    Once the translation is complete and approved, publish the translated content according to the Release Format 2, and make it available to the target audience as part of your national SNOMED CT Extension.



There are several methods that can be used to translate SNOMED CT, including:

  • Manual translation: This involves the manual translation of SNOMED CT concepts and terms by a team of human translators. This method is time-consuming, but it may ensure accurate and high-quality translations (which of course depends on the knowledge and skills on the translators).

  • Machine translation: Machine translation uses computer algorithms to translate SNOMED CT concepts and terms automatically. This method is faster than manual translation, but the quality of the translation may not be as accurate as that of manual translation.

  • Hybrid translation: This involves a combination of manual and machine translation. The machine translation is used to provide a rough translation, which is then refined and checked by human translators to ensure accuracy and quality.

  • Community-based translation: This involves the translation of SNOMED CT concepts and terms by a community of users. The translations are then reviewed and validated by a team of experts to ensure accuracy and consistency.

It is important to note that each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and the choice of method will depend on the timeline and the technical, economical and human resources available.

Important to remember:​
  • Consider the scope - Only translate what you need to translate

  • Do not translate inactive content

  • Do not try to translate the whole of SNOMED CT in a single instance

  • Translate only those terms that will appear in your language reference set, i.e. those that will be used by end user systems

  • Prioritize translation review - A terminological review should ensure that linguistic guidelines and translation guidelines are observed

  • Do not translate using a spreadsheet - use a dedicated translation tool



There are several SNOMED CT translations managed by Member territories. These have been created according to the SNOMED International translation principles and access can be retrieved through the relevant National Release Center.


  • Australia: SCT AU, National Extension including Australian English

  • Belgium: SCT BE, National Extension including Dutch and French translations

  • Canada: SCT CA, National Extension including English and French components

  • Denmark: SCT DK, National Extension including a Danish translation of major parts of SNOMED CT

  • Estonia: SCT EE, National Extension including Estonian translation

  • Lithuania: SCT LI, National extension including a partial Lithuanian translation

  • Netherlands: SCT NL, National Extension including a Dutch translation

  • Norway: SCT NO, National extension including a partial Norwegian translation

  • Spain: SCT ES, National Extension including European Spanish

  • Sweden: SCT SE, National Extension including a full Swedish translation

  • United Kingdom: SCT UK, National Extension including UK English

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