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What is the difference between a business glossary, a data dictionary and a data catalog?

While business glossaries, data dictionaries and data catalogs all work together they are distinct tools and it is important to understand the difference between them.

Business Glossary – A business glossary is an exhaustive list of all terms used across the company with definitions. A business glossary doesn’t necessarily define metadata, but is meant to be used by everyone in the company to ensure a common vernacular and clarity between departments. The terms found in a glossary can be used both by business intelligence specialist and executives alike.

Data Dictionary – A data dictionary contains technical descriptions and detailed information on the files that make up a dataset. Using metadata such as file types, file sizes and lineage information, data dictionaries organize data so that analysts and data engineers can query and understand the data contained within them. There is one data dictionary for every database.

Data Catalog – The data catalog is a tool that uses a completed business glossary and data dictionaries to locate data across the entire organization. It is often considered the main reference point for anyone trying to find data within the company. If a specific division of a business differs enough from the rest of the company, a standalone data catalog may be created to serve the needs of that group, but in general data catalogs should be enterprise wide.