A glossary is a list of words with explanations or translations attached. The Latin word glossarium refers to an object as a “book” that explains old or foreign words.
Glossaries were created in antiquity and the Middle Ages by glossographers (“Glossenschreiber”) as collections of words requiring explanation (archaisms, dialect words, foreign words, see glossary) for grammar study and as aids for explaining texts (especially Homers and the Bible). Since late antiquity, bilingual, Greek-Latin and Latin-Greek glossaries were also produced, which served to convey the respective foreign language, and in the Latin Middle Ages formed the starting point for the creation of Latin-Volk-Language glossaries (Abrogans, Affatim-Glossary).
As a lexicographical genre, the monolingual and bilingual glossaries form a preliminary stage for dictionaries designed for the complete recording of a vocabulary. In the 18th century, Charles Du Cange still titled the basic lexicon of Vulgar and Mittellateinic by Charles Du Cange as Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis (1st edition Paris 1678). The glossaries of antiquity and late antiquity often used the method of etymology, which tries to derive a word or its components from words with a similar sound in order to uncover not only the origin of the word, but also the essential properties of the matter in question. Therefore, in addition to primary linguistic explanations, they often also offered a high proportion of factual explanations, through which they became a preliminary stage of encyclopaedias. Thus the most effective encyclopedia for the Middle Ages, the Etymologiae by Isidor of Seville, is also compiled from late antique glossaries.
A glossary is a list of words with linguistic explanations, which opens up the vocabulary of an edited text and is usually printed in the appendix to this text. A technical glossary lists the terminology of a technical language or technical field with definitions to ensure the correct use of these terms and their unambiguous understanding.