Multilingual Demographic Dictionary

This website is a complementary tool of the Demopædia project.

To consult the multilingual demographic dictionaries or to participate to the Population Open Encyclopedia, go to

WARNING : this website is still in beta (test) phase. Thank you for your understanding.


The first edition

In 1953, the Population Commission of the United Nations requested the preparation of a Multilingual Demographic Dictionary, a task in which the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) offered to collaborate. In 1955, an ad hoc Committee under the chairmanship of P. Vincent of France was established to prepare the English, French and Spanish versions of the Dictionary. The Committee included as members: C.E. Dieulefait (Argentina), H.F. Dorn (United States), E. Grebenik (United Kingdom), P. Luzzato-Fegiz (Italy), M. Pascua (Switzerland) and J. Ros Jimeno (Spain). The French and English versions of the Dictionary were published in 1958 and the Spanish version in 1959. Versions in ten other languages appeared between that date and 1971.

The second edition

Because of the rapid development of demography and population studies during the 1960s, in 1969 the Population Commission recommended the updating of the Multilingual Demographic Dictionary, a task that was pursued once more in collaboration with IUSSP. A new Committee on International Demographic Terminology was set up under the chairmanship of P. Paillat (France) and started work in 1972 with financial support from the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Other members of the Committee were: A. Boyarski (USSR), E. Grebenik (United Kingdom), K. Mayer (Switzerland), J. Nadal (Spain) and S. Kono (Japan). The Committee submitted a revised draft to the consideration of a hundred or so demographic centres that provided comments. In 1976, Prof. Louis Henry was commissioned by IUSSP to edit the work and produce the second edition of the Dictionary in French. IUSSP then requested Prof. Etienne van de Walle to adapt and translate the French second edition into English. The second edition in English was published in 1982. Eventually, the second edition would be issued in all official languages of the United Nations.

From the second edition to Demopædia

The series of Multilingual Demographic Dictionaries is one of the most enduring products in the history of demography and one of the most fruitful thanks to the work and engagement of scholars who have translated the original French or English versions into their own languages. As a result of those efforts, the international community can benefit today from access to 14 language versions of the second edition of the Demographic Dictionary, mainly thanks to the initiative undertaken by Nicolas Brouard in compiling the out-of-print versions of the Dictionaries in different languages and developing a Wiki-based presentation of all of them as a web-accessible Multilingual Demographic Dictionary. The United Nations Population Division, IUSSP and the Comité national français of the IUSSP have all supported this work in order to facilitate access to these valuable reference texts.

Why on-line?

Because the Demographic Dictionaries in various languages were conceived as tools to serve people in many countries, making them accessible via the Internet was thought mandatory. Today, thanks to the project led by Nicolas Brouard, standard demographic terminology and its meaning is only two clicks away for students, teachers, professors, researchers, government officials, journalists, non-governmental organizations and the public at large, all working in their own languages.

Visitors to Demopædia can consult the different language modules, read them, or download and print them. All copyright owners have made this possible. Users can search for a demographic term, surf between linked terms and expressions, or switch to another language or edition. Because each Dictionary consists of thematic chapters, terms are located in context, providing not only a definition of each term but also an understanding of the subject matter for which a term is relevant. Each language module has a built-in index that facilitates navigation and cross-referencing. In addition, the Wiki platform provides powerful tools for further development. It is envisaged that the next stage of the project will allow specialists to post additions, revisions or corrections to the second edition.
What is next

Structure of the dictionaries

Each text term, defined as a demographic term or demographical expression of the Multilingual Demographic Dictionary which must be translated into any language, will have its own named page in the Open Encyclopedia on Population.

The original definition expressed in one of the two Multilingual Demographic Dictionary editions is (or was if the paragraph has been overwritten by the second edition) a first start for a multimedia Encyclopedia on Populations.
The Multilingual Demographic Dictionary offers the advantage of large consensus (United Nations commission on terminology of the early 50’s) and having been translated into various languages (about 15 languages). But it has the disadvantage of being old (1981 for the second edition in French): some sections or even chapters have to written or rewritten.

Each dictionary starts with section 10 (General concepts), whose paragraphs are numbered starting from 101. That is, sections are identified by two-digit codes and paragraphs within them are identified by adding a third digit. There are normally between 5 and 9 paragraphs per section.

Each paragraph describes a demographic concept using other related terms. Terms presented in bold face constitute the key terminology presented by the Dictionary and are denoted by TextTerm in the wiki version. A TextTerm is uniquely identified by its footnote number. Therefore, the location of a TextTerm can be established by knowing its paragraph number and footnote number as, for instance, 101-1, which is the location code for the term demography. These numerical codes facilitate the linking of terms in different languages. Sometimes an actual footnote is used to provide comments on the use of a particular term. For more information on how the coding scheme of the Dictionaries works, please refer to the original preface to each edition.