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back to Introduction | preface | Index
chapters | General concepts index 1 | The treatment and processing of population statistics index 2 | Distribution and classification of the population index 3 | Mortality and morbidity index 4 | Nuptiality index 5 | Fertility index 6 | Population growth and replacement index 7 | Migration index 8 | Economic and social aspects of demography index 9
section | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 80 | 81 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93


Prepared by the Demographic Dictionary Committee of the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population



Department of Economic and Social Affairs

New York, 1958

ST/SOA/Ser. A/29


At its fourth session the Population Commission of the United Nations requested the Secretary-General to include the preparation of a multilingual demographic dictionary in the Secretariat's work programme. Several months later the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, at its General Assembly in Geneva, offered to collaborate with the United Nations in this project and set up a sub-committee to prepare a plan of work. At the fifth session of the Population Commission the Secretary-General was asked to accept the Union's offer, and the Dictionary Committee was given the task of drafting versions of the dictionary in English, French and Spanish.

The primary purpose of the dictionary is to serve as a useful tool for technical translation. It consists of separate sections, each of which presents in one language the technical terms used in demography; the text is followed by an alphabetical index of terms. The texts in, the various languages correspond to one another, and equivalent terms in different languages have the same reference number so that it is possible to identify them in the different volumes. The Committee entrusted with the task of preparing the three initial volumes consisted of:

  • Paul E. Vincent (France) (Chairman and Rapporteur);
  • Carlos E. Dieulefait (Argentina);
  • Harold F. Dorn (U.S.A.);
  • Eugene Grebenik (United Kingdom);
  • Pierpaolo Luzzatto-Fegiz (Italy);
  • Marcelino Pascua (Switzerland);
  • Jose Ros Jimeno (Spain).

The first draft consisted of a basic French text which was prepared in the Institut national d'études demographiques in France under the general supervision of M. Vincent. This text was translated into English and Spanish by Messrs. Grebenik and Ros Jimeno respectively. The draft bad to be completed somewhat hurriedly in view of the approach of the World Population Conference, at which participants received a provisional edition, dated June 1954, published by the United Nations. The dissemination of this provisional edition made it possible for a number of experts to comment critically on the draft and gave the Committee an opportunity to take account of the comments received. Some of the imperfections of the first draft were due to the fact that the basic text had been prepared in a single language only—French. It was clear that considerable differences existed between the terminologies in English and in the Romance languages, and that a compromise between different conceptions was essential. It was further realized that a mere list of equivalences was not sufficient but that definitions of terms would have to be included in the text, so that translators might have the opportunity of noting differences in usage between different languages. The Committee recommended accordingly and, the recommendation having been approved by the Union, Mr. Grebenik was requested to prepare a new text in English, making use of the basic French text. Mr. Grebenik's new text was then revised in collaboration with M. Vincent, and a second draft produced in English and French, which was used by Sr. Ros Jimeno in preparing the Spanish version. The three drafts wrere then submitted for approval to the Dictionary Committee, the Council of the Union and a number of experts, with a view to producing a final edition.

In publishing the English, French and Spanish sections of the Multilingual Demographic Dictionary it is necessary to emphasize certain points. Firstly, the dictionary is the result of collaboration, not only between the three principal editors, but also on the part of all members of the Committee. The final version owes much to the recommendations made by a number of demographers who read various versions of the draft and commented on them, frequently in great detail. Most of their comments were accepted either in whole or in part. Some other comments the editors—perhaps mistakenly—felt unable to accept.

The editors were frequently faced with difficult problems of choice between a number of possible formulations. The nature of the dictionary, however, makes it impossible to give a detailed justification for using one version, rather than another. Final responsibility for choice rests on each of the principal editors, in this English section, Mr. Eugene Grebenik. At the same time the editors were not free to prepare a text entirely according to their own wishes. The necessity to produce parallel texts in different languages and the desire to take into consideration the comments that were made, have frequently led them to include certain expressions or definitions which they would have preferred to formulate differently had they been entirely free agents. Nevertheless, they agreed to accept responsibility for the text as it stands.

It must also be stressed that this dictionary does not pretend to be a treatise on demography. In preparing the text the fundamental aim has always been that it should serve as an aid to technical translation, and it was therefore necessary to consider the terminology of various languages in order to make the dictionary truly multilingual. Languages differ in their structure, and demographic terminology depends, moreover, not only on the language but on the development of demographic research in various countries, so that it is sometimes illogical and at variance with the requirements of science. Occasionally, terms in different languages are not wholly equivalent. In one language there may exist a profusion of terms referring to a particular subject which in another is practically neglected. In the text, notes to the different paragraphs have been used in an attempt to reduce as far as possible the inconveniences arising from these difficulties. Had the aim been to produce a set of definitions in one language, without taking account of the others, the result would have been very different. This preoccupation also accounts for a certain imbalance in the contents. It has seemed useful in certain cases to include in the dictionary terms which are not properly demographic but are frequently encountered in demographic literature and do not always appear in general dictionaries, thus causing difficulties to translators who are not expert in the subject. In considering the needs of translators the Committee has been led to adopt the principle that no opinions should be expressed on particular usages, and no recommendations made unless there was a general consensus of opinion that a particular nomenclature was undesirable. The dictionary is therefore not normative. It does not lay down new definitions. Where definitions are included, their main purpose is to establish terminological equivalences and to make them more accurate. The necessity for extreme conciseness in these definitions has occasionally led to a certain lack of precision. Standardization of definitions requires studies of a different kind. In order to avoid any misunderstanding, a list of recent documents published by various international organizations concerned with the definition of various demographic concepts is given at the end of the alphabetical index. The reader will have to consult these studies when he has to solve a problem connected with definition rather than translation.

The purpose of the dictionary will be better served if it is extended to other languages. Some sections in other languages have already been planned, or are in draft. Moreover, the Population Commission at its ninth session requested the Secretariat to study the possibility of preparing a Russian section of the dictionary. Experience will show whether the compromise that has been reached between the English and Romance languages can be extended to other Germanic and Slavonic languages as well as to those outside the Indo-European group.


The dictionary consists of a text supplemented by notes in small type and an alphabetical index. All terms which are printed in bold face in the text and the notes are listed in the index. Where an expression consisting of several words is printed in bold face it will appear in the index under each of the principal constituent words, e. g., "density of population" is indexed under D as "Density population", and under P as "Population density".

Each term has a reference number which is composed of the number of the paragraph in which it appears and an identification number. For terms appearing in the body of the text the identification number is printed immediately after the term, and for those in the notes it is the number of the note; the latter also relates the note to the corresponding term in the text. Terms occurring in the notes which are not in the text are starred in the index and reference numbers.

Text terms with the same reference numbers in the various sections of the dictionary correspond to one another. For instance, the translator who wishes to find the equivalent French term for a given expression in English should look up the English expression in the alphabetical index of the English section and find the correspondingly numbered paragraph in the French section. It is strongly recommended that the whole paragraph in which the expression occurs in both sections should be read in order to guard against faulty translation due to slight differences in usage; this will also be useful if, in one of the languages, no term exists to express a particular concept.

Different terms which are used to express the same concept have the same reference number. Any term which is susceptible of different interpretations may have two or more reference numbers which refer to the appropriate contexts. Terms printed in bold face in notes do not necessarily correspond to one another in the different sections. Moreover, in paragraphs 303 and 344, which deal with the administrative structures of different countries and with their educational systems, there is no correspondence between the different language sections. Terms introduced in these paragraphs have no identification numbers; the paragraphs themselves are subdivided into lettered sections, A and B in the English section referring to Great Britain and the United States of America respectively.

List of abbreviations

adj. adjective
adv. adverb
n. noun
part. participle
pl. plural
syn. synonym
v. verb.

back to Introduction | preface | Index
chapters | General concepts index 1 | The treatment and processing of population statistics index 2 | Distribution and classification of the population index 3 | Mortality and morbidity index 4 | Nuptiality index 5 | Fertility index 6 | Population growth and replacement index 7 | Migration index 8 | Economic and social aspects of demography index 9
section | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 70 | 71 | 72 | 80 | 81 | 90 | 91 | 92 | 93